Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Naturalism vs. Judaism


[John Dewey, philosophical naturalist, credited by some with having ruined American schools]

One thing which I have noticed while having discussions with atheists, is that atheism is usually based on metaphysical naturalism; the belief that “nature is all that there is”, nothing exists except for physical things and everything is capable of being understood by science.

There are many arguments in favor of naturalism, while there are many arguments against it as well.

Apparently, the argument in favor of metaphysical naturalism is primarily the “Argument from precedent” – the concept that since so many things previously explained by religion have now been explained by science, eventually everything once explained by religion will be explained by science, rendering religion entirely disproven.

I cannot speak for other religions, however I know of almost nothing that was once explained by Orthodox Judaism that is now explained by science. Science, by which I mean exact, repeatable, laboratory science of the type that wins Nobel prizes and creates new technologies, involves studying how things work in the present. Judaism explains how things originated (the universe, life, man, languages, the Jewish people). Science and Judaism therefore are discussing two entirely different things.

The only case where I am aware of Judaism explaining something in a religious way which science has now explained in a natural way is in the Talmud tractate Sukkah 29a, where eclipses are attributed, by anonymous rabbis and without any scriptural citation, to various sins. Science (actually Ptolemy about 2,000 years ago) has explained eclipses based on the predictable movements of the earth and moon.

To me the “Argument from precedent” seems to be just a baseless assertion. “We have cured smallpox, so tomorrow we will understand everything.”

The often repeated “Argument from absence”, that if the supernatural exists (whether as gods, powers, or spirits), it is so silent and inert that its effects are almost never observed, despite vast and extensive searching, seems to go a step further and implies that not only will science explain everything, but it ALREADY HAS explained everything, thereby disproving religion. This should come as a surprise to researchers who still have no idea how or why so many things occur, from cancer to the accelerating expansion of the universe.

Metaphysical naturalism seems to really just boil down to some Soviet era propaganda like “Science is reason” and “Religion is superstition”.

On the other hand, the arguments in favor of Judaism, in particular the Watchmaker Principle and the Kuzari Principle seem to be very convincing.

I am therefore amazed that someone raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, who has been educated in Judaism, can be totally convinced of naturalism. How can informed people have no doubt and no question about something clearly so wrong?

In my humble opinion the answer is simple: sex.

I assert that every single person who has switched from Orthodox Judaism to atheism first had a problem with sexual self-control. There was in every case pornography, masturbation, romance novels, a sexual attraction to someone non-Orthodox and then and only then the atheism followed as a means of escaping from guilt. I say this because first of all, in every situation where I have a detailed knowledge, this was the case and secondly because in present day America the only real material benefit the secular world has to offer the Orthodox Jew is promiscuity.

The New Atheism is basically sexual addiction coated with old Marxist beliefs.

I would add, however, that sex is merely the primary cause. There are often secondary causes as well. We all have, to varying degrees, sex drives, however, having a bad relationship with parents, coming from a divorced family or suffering from other problems and disappointments can make resisting these urges much more difficult.

Each one of us must try to strengthen himself in the study of Torah as much as possible as the Talmud teaches “The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to Israel: My son, I have created the Evil Inclination; and I have created the Torah, its antidote. If you involve yourself in the Torah, you will not be delivered into its hands” (Tractate Kiddushin, 30b). I have never met an atheist who studied Torah full time after age 25.

We must realize that atheism is a symptom of a deeper underlying problem and the arguments supporting it are merely rationalizations.

17 comments:

Baal Habos said...

>I say this because first of all, in every situation where I have a detailed knowledge, this was the case and secondly because in present day America the only real material benefit the secular world has to offer the Orthodox Jew is promiscuity.

What a crock of crap. You know that assertion is false is my case.

>Judaism explains how things originated (the universe, life, man, languages, the Jewish people).

The problem with Judaism is that it explains things and makes claims without backing it up with evidence.

Baal Habos said...

Moderation? why is it that only the religious sites resort to moderation?

jewish philosopher said...

Bos, regarding your motives for atheism, I have no way of knowing them. In fact, I really have no way of knowing anything about you.

How do I know, for example, that you are not an Orthodox man, who was raised in an Orthodox family, who went on to marry, send children to yeshivas, etc. However you have a problem, a secret problem which no one else knows about, perhaps not even your wife. You are addicted to pornography. When you were 14 you found a porn magazine at a friend's house. Since then, you have been collecting and indulging in an endless line of magazines, movies, peep shows, etc etc. You were wracked by guilt over your double life; daily you prayed to God for self control, sometimes you were able to stop briefly, however you always went back to it. You had to have that rush, excitement and relief. At age 40, you happened to pick up a book, written by an intelligent atheist, which argued that the Torah a fiction. Suddenly, you were free! All you had to do was accept this author's belief, and all your guilt would be removed. Hence, you became BHB.

Frankly, I have no doubt that people like Sasha Grey are doing 10 times more for atheism than Richard Dawkins.

If you are concerned about the lack of archaeological evidence for Torah, I have a post about that.

About moderation, I can't remember how many Jewish atheist sites I have been completely banned from, besides having had plenty of posts of deleted.

What was happening is that I found a few people were leaving dozens of comments simply to harass me. I didn't feel that was adding anything to the blog and I didn't have time to deal with it.

The Raz said...

Please Post and Address

As a former “harasser” I would like to apologize. I never intended for you to think I was harassing you. I did get fired up about your comments and thoroughly enjoyed the back and forth. You irritated me, angered me at times with how off in left field you were with these posts. I thought you would enjoy a little intellectual wrestling match and miss the debates of old. If you think bringing proofs that disproof your thoughts are harassment, then you are mistaking intellectual debate with a war of words. If you can’t stand the heat JP, stay out the kitchen. There are plenty of Orthodox Rabbinic authorities who have accepted evolution. How do you respond to them? What would you say the author of “the challenge of creation?” And last, do you think everyone who disagrees with you, i.e. me, is just some goy disguised as a frum Jew?

jewish philosopher said...

I have responded. And that's the problem. I just don't have time to keep repeating myself.

Baal Habos said...

>Bos, regarding your motives for atheism, I have no way of knowing them. In fact, I really have no way of knowing anything about you.

As for me, you have no way of knowing anything other than what I tell you and you must take what I say at face value.

You have no way knowing about anyone. Yet you claim you know first hand detailed knowledge of other's who strayed because of Promiscuity. How would you possibly know.

As it turns out, you're the one who is sexually obsessed with all your references to porn, gays, porn stars. As a matter of fact, you bring it up more that anyone else.

Kul Haposel B'mumo Posel.

jewish philosopher said...

"As for me, you have no way of knowing anything other than what I tell you and you must take what I say at face value."

I would be a fool to take what you say at face value.

"You have no way knowing about anyone."

Why not? People tell me things. I think this also explains why about 90% of Frum skeptics are male.

"As it turns out, you're the one who is sexually obsessed"

I never said I wasn't. But there's a difference between someone who struggles and is succeeding, most of the time, and someone who surrenders, gives into destructive impulses and rationalizes that it's OK.

Baal Habos said...

>I would be a fool to take what you say at face value.

>Why not? People tell me things.

You just contradicted yourself.
You won't trust me, but you do take other people at face value.

As for motivation, just because you have sexual hangups doesn't mean that everyone else does. I fail to see why you insist that people who do succumb to temptation must drop it all to rationalize it away. There are plenty of believers who are oiver on all kinds of aveiros, sexual, monetary, gluttony, slander, talking in Shul. Everyone manages to rationalize it away without giving up on Faith.

Look at another type of example. I have a co-worker who can't help himself and overeats. A lot. He has a history of disease in the family and he knows he is eating himself to the grave. Yet he does it anyway. He just can't help himself. That's an example of a person accepting the consequences of his actions.

Frum believers do the same all the time. They talk in Shul yet say Slach Lanu. They watch DVD's but still go to learn.

You are way off base here.

jewish philosopher said...

I’ll give you an example of what I mean by denial and rationalization. This clip is the first in five clips about a young, successful businessman who is in the terminal stages of extreme alcohol abuse. Soon after the documentary was made he died. He claims that he has no drinking problem and that he only has two or three drinks a day and not every day. People who know him personally have a different impression.

I think that ex-Orthodox Jewish atheists are in a similar state of denial and rationalization that will also have a bad end eventually.

alex said...

I liked your post. I think I can add to one thing you wrote. "The only case where I am aware of Judaism explaining something in a religious way which science has now explained in a natural way is in the Talmud tractate Sukkah 29a, where eclipses are attributed, by anonymous rabbis and without any scriptural citation, to various sins. "
I believe that Nachmanides describes how in his time, unlike in Talmudic times, they had a natural explanation for rainbows.

Baal Habos said...

JP, what more can I say. Just because some people are in denial, doesn't mean everyone is and maybe you are the one in denial. So even though once in a while, I may discuss issues such as cognitive dissonance, it really does not pay to focus on this aspect. Both sides have bias and as long as it's brought to the table and acknowledged, mature adults should leace it at that and instead focus on the issues. Not the mind games.

jewish philosopher said...

The standard claim made by atheists is that believers are merely afraid of death and therefore imagine that there is an afterlife. The standard claim made by believers is that atheists merely want unlimited sex and therefore deny God.

I think that both claims are true most of the time, however that doesn't mean that a sober, honest person examining all the evidence cannot come to a correct conclusion.

Parenthetically, I have in front of me a copy of "Unchosen" by Hella Winston. As far as I can remember, in ever case she describes the Orthodox Jewish apostate had difficulties observing Jewish sexual restrictions, while not one mentioned Darwinian evolution or the Documentary Hypothesis as being a reason for leaving Judaism.

Baal Habos said...

>The standard claim made by atheists is that believers are merely afraid of death and therefore imagine that there is an afterlife.

Not quite, it's more that believers invent an afterlife bacause without it, you have the problem of evil in this world.

True, that is a claim, but we don't harp on it all the time.


>The standard claim made by believers is that atheists merely want unlimited sex and therefore deny God.

I don;t see the comparison at all. You are ascribing some motive to our disbelief. The parallel would be for you to claim that Atheists end up living a life of Nihilism and empty Hedonism to compensaate for the lack of an afterlife.


>I think that both claims are true most of the time,

I don't.

>however that doesn't mean that a sober, honest person examining all the evidence cannot come to a correct conclusion.

Yes, some people do.

>Parenthetically, I have in front of me a copy of "Unchosen" by Hella Winston. As far as I can remember, in ever case she describes the Orthodox Jewish apostate had difficulties observing Jewish sexual restrictions, while not one mentioned Darwinian evolution or the Documentary Hypothesis as being a reason for leaving Judaism.

That book was about SOME people. It is not representative of frum skeptics.

jewish philosopher said...

I would say that most atheists do end up living fairly hedonistic miserable lives and Hella's book is the only thing in print right now about Frum skeptics.

Prometheus said...

[Part 1 of 5]
Dear Mr. "Jewish Philosopher"

(Jewish Fanatic is more like it because a philosopher you are not!)

I am taking the liberty to debunk your woefully nonsensical, illogical, anti-intellectual diatribe.

"I cannot speak for other religions, however I know of almost nothing that was once explained by Orthodox Judaism
that is now explained by science. Science, by which I mean exact, repeatable, laboratory science of the type that wins Nobel prizes and creates new technologies, involves studying how things work in the present. Judaism explains how things originated (the universe, life, man, languages, the Jewish people). Science and Judaism therefore are
discussing two entirely different things."


WRONG! Judaism may explain or attempt to explain the origin of the universe, of life, of man, of languages, and the Jewish people (in fact I presume you are referring specifically to the Book of Genesis), but so does science.

Science explains the origin of the universe (astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology), the origin of life (chemistry), the origin of man (biology, evolution), and even arguably language (linguistics, though some dispute whether linguistics is at the level of a hard science yet). Right off the bat you start with a blatantly false premise!

You claim that "science" or "exact, repeatable, laboratory science" that "creates new technologies" only "involves studying how things work in the present."

That statement is not only demonstrably false, it is patently idiotic! However, it is obvious that you not only reject naturalism, but you do not believe in science either. You basically reduced "science" to "technology." You may be surprised to know that science is not just a bunch of fancy gadgets and computers and atom bombs and rocket ships.

Science is essentially the systematic empirical study of the natural world. The one axiom, or postulate, upon which science rests is the principle that the physical world is knowable or observable. You might declare "science" to be a “belief system,” but that seems a lot simpler than a religious creed with dozens of independent propositions which must be believed on faith alone.

The same "science" that gives us the technology we are currently using to have this discussion provides an equally reliable means of knowing and understanding the physical world. Scientific explanations of the origins of the universe, life, man, etc. are based on hard evidence such as paleontology (evidence of the fossil record), radiometric dating (working on physical principles that operate), meticulous astronomical observations, and so on. It is obvious that you do not believe in science, but you will deny said disbelief in science because publicly announcing, "I don't believe in science," would make you sound stupid in the modern world. So you denounce scientific attempts to explain and understand the world as "naturalism" while redefining technology as "science," limiting the definition of "real" science to applied technology, because it is kind of hard to claim that science does not work when you are using a freaking electronic computer!

jewish philosopher said...

I'm not sure I get it. You're saying what "Science is good. Atheism is science. Atheism is good. God is not science. God is bad. People who believe in God are bad."

Something like that? It's just the same old Marxist-Leninist dogma.

jewish philosopher said...

Regarding possible conflicts between science and Torah, I have a few posts:

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/09/how-i-understand-genesis.html
http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/10/biblical-deluge.html
http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/02/torah-and-archaeology.html