The Association Of Orthodox Jewish Scientists Goes Over The Edge

The association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, once the proud home of giants like Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, ztz"l, has apparently morphed into a bizarre collection of haredi apologists and wannabees. As GodolHador notes (hat tip: me, yours truly, the anti-Mendel), calling this rank propaganda may be giving AOJS too much credit:

Evolution is not "only a theory"; it is a hypothesis, and not more. And according to the rules of logic, the opposite of any hypothesis is as valid as its original statement. The dictionary states that "a hypothesis implies insufficiency of presently obtainable evidence and, therefore, a tentative explanation; theory implies a much greater range of evidence and greater likelihood of truth," (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1949).
Rabbi Meyer Lublin, Intercom, Vol XXV, Issue 3, Fall 2005 AOJS.

The rules of logic eh? I’m impressed. Of
course we cannot ignore the rules of logic, that would be very bad
indeed. And since it’s only a hypothesis, any opposite theory is just
as valid? Amazing! So my theory that Zoboomafoo created all humanity
from a cup of Tradition Noodle Soup (Beef & Vegetable flavor no
less) is just as valid too! I think the AOJS needs to be informed of
this development.
GodolHador, about a half hour ago.

Think rational Orthodoxy is standing up to the Rabbi Slifkin Ban? Think again.

[It should be noted that it is hard for mere scientists to stand up for the truth when so many rabbis have remained so conspicuously silent. I think it’s time for the RCA to issue a statement on Torah and Science. It’s long overdue, as is a parallel statement from the leaders of the YU beit midrash.]



Filed under Rabbi Slifkin Book Ban, Torah and Science

15 responses to “The Association Of Orthodox Jewish Scientists Goes Over The Edge

  1. Zoboomafoo

    And who are you to question my ineffable ways?


  2. Zoboomafoo

    Doh! My Ineffable Ways.

    Theology… can’t live with it can’t live without it.

    Ignore that guy behind the curtin.


  3. rather than defend evolution and obvious stuff eg phylogenetically conserved sequences, its more fun to examine the cosmological theories of these guys. if you call their ideas on lurianic kabbalistic creation and shevirat ha kelim they will have resort to claims that their info comes from psychic sources. that nicely removes em from the science realm.

  4. David N. Friedman

    The Association of Orothodox Jewish Scientists, has NOT, as is stated on this disturbing blog, claimed anything different from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan or Jewish tradition.

    Evolutionary theory is, in fact, a hypothesis and this does not by the rules of logic make it more or less valid than any other hypothesis. The point made by the website you are criticizing is merely pointing out the obvious; namely, a hypothesis must stand on its own and cannot claim special or exclusive status. We can easily reject another hypothesis that we can rule out of hand as absurd so, one hypothesis is better than another.

    It is a core belief in Judaism that a supernatural being, God, created the universe. It is also a core Jewish belief that nature on its own cannot create anything (although the laws of nature that God brought about allow for the natural destruction of matter) and further, someone who believes that NATURE creates living things is a pantheist and an idol worshipper and not a Jew. This is why Darwinism is not simply a scientific lie, it is contrary to Judaism’s core tenent.

    If you can show how natural selection creates something like a cell, a plant hormone, a body part–for example–you will be the first. The hypothesis that nature does it by itself through some unknown power and plan is a hypothesis. In my book it is not a very good one and is not a truly scientific hypothesis. Evolution should be banned from the schools because it is a religious philosophy and not science.

    Having said all that, the main point stands that it should come as no surprize that Jewish scientists have a problem with evolution since many non-Jewish scientists also have the same trouble. The difference is that we have a long tradition saying that it is not permitted to believe in such a lie.

    Common descent, the age of the universe, the fact that many things change over time–all this is obvious to everyone. The controversy is over the creative power of unknown natural forces that some say must exist and the Jews claim do not exist.

    It is design and not blind random forces that create life forms. This is the Jewish tradition.

    What do YOU say?

  5. You are a fool.

    Rabbi Kaplan – unlike the midgets that run AOJS today – understood that science may conflict with Torah if Torah is viewed in a strict constuctionist sense. Therefore, as long as no halakha is violated, there is no good (or intellegent) reason to fight science. Saadia Gaon and others far greater than you and AOJS have been very clear on this. Further, as Jews, all we need to believe is that God ordered the creation, that he “sparked it,” so to speak. That is the minimalist kosher view. It is also why Rav Kook and many others found nothing objectionable in evolution or Darwin.

    Your representation of Judaism is simply incorrect.

  6. David N. Friedman

    Shmarya, your belief that “Further, as Jews, all we need to believe is that God ordered the creation, that he “sparked it,” so to speak”–is inconsistent with any statement I can find in normative Judaism and is a belief commonly found among the 18th C Deists or pantheists. This is a minimalist “kosher” statement if you intend to create distortions. Please indicate not what is minimalist and what is maximalist, rather, what is normative.

    As I stated further, yes, everyone believes in “evolution.” As I argued previously, the question is not evolution in a generic way but evolution in the way that is dictated by the modern secularists that ascribe the power of creation to strictly natural agents. Your desire to bash others stops you from answering the basic questions and choosing sides in the debate.

    I am pleased to stand with Jewish tradition and our sages and say that God as creator of the universe is a fundamental reality and science will never be able to give mankind a complete picture of the reality–only a partial picture.

    What science demonstrates as FACT I accept. You ignore the fact that science does not offer a proof that the universe, our world and all life on this planet is the product of random factors and natural selection.

    Science and Torah are complements and not in conflict.

  7. “Shmarya, your belief that “Further, as Jews, all we need to believe is that God ordered the creation, that he “sparked it,” so to speak”–is inconsistent with any statement I can find in normative Judaism …”

    Well you just don’t know that much, do you. This statement is consistent with the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim, with Saadia Gaon, and with statements made by Rav Kook.

    Further, you confuse random selection with evolution. Science has not proved randomness, but it has evolution. Evolution ***without*** randomness – i.e., ordered evolution – has been declared heresy by today’s haredi gedolim. That you do not address this – or the bans against Rabbi Natan Slifkin – says much about your (lack of) honesty or about your ignorance.

  8. David N. Friedman

    Shmarya, many issues have been raised on this blog. These issues should be discussed in turn. I find it curious that you have so much at stake in protesting the treatment of Rabbi Slifkin. I have read his website and looked at some of the informaton available and I have a mixed conclusion.

    It is true that I believe that science has conclusively proven that the world is millions of years old and the universe began with the Big Bang about 15 billion years ago and if there are Rabbis who believe that Torah says the Earth is a bit more than 6000 years old, this is not only incorrect, it is embarrassing. Further, Rabbi Slifkin is acting in good faith and is a man with no malice against Judaism and therefore should not be subjected to a ban. In fact, I believe that no Jewish voice, no matter how radical, should be banned.

    On the other hand, Rabbi Slifkin appealed to the Heredi gedolim for approval and approval is not an automatic thing. Simply by asking, Rabbi Slifkin set HIMSELF up for possible censure.

    Further, reading thorugh his citations, it is apparent that he has misused some of his sources and this is not a good strategy when one wants to appear strictly by the book–it only fuels the anger. I have not yet read or found argument detailing why Rabbi Slifkin’s books are so heretical. It would seem that he has said more things controversial than the contention that humanoids preceeded Adam and Chava and the age of the universe since these are points brought up by many Jewish authors through the years who have not been censured. I would imagine that a critcial difference between Gerald Schroeder and Rabbi Slifkin is that Schroeder is writing as a MIT-trained scientist writing for a general community while Slifkin is writing as a frum Rabbi under the eyes of the most conservative group of Rabbis in existence!!–isn’t this an important distinction?

    I found Rabbi Hecht’s remarks diplomatic.

    I have not read any of Rabbi Slifkin’s books (I own all of Dr. Schroeder’s)and if I read them, I might see what the fuss is all about. I trust the gedolim enough to sense that they are not simply whistling Dixie.

    On the other hand, I find Rabbi Slifkin’s account of what happened mostly believable and I think this might reflect poorly on the gedolim except for the fact that they do not have to answer to popular opinion nor do they have a burden to act in what might be called a polite or democratic manner. If Rabbi Slifkin has been slighted by the gedolim, this is not so different than US courts and US judges mistreating innocent plaintiffs and taxpayers on a regular basis. For me, I believe the taxpayers can DEMAND a fair shake and not those writing in a religious context.

    In fact, it is interesting that as you, Shmyrna, complain so much about the Haredi gedolim acting in a strident manner, you seem to mimic their style as you approach others on this blog. If you are serious in your contention that a small group of Rabbis do not hold a monopoly on the truth, you cannot claim it for yourself.

    I approach you in the spirit of friendship and I hope you will respond in kind.

  9. David N. Friedman

    Saying something like “science has proven evolution” demands specificity. What exactly has been proven?

    Has science actually proven HOW something evolves? Please correct me if you believe I am wrong, I have not read that this is true in anyway. Some evolutionary biologists contend that evolution is a working theory because the changes are “observed,” and not that the process by which the change occurs is known or that the mechanisms can be predicted. I was very amused to read about the plant hormone auxin, for example, in the Wall Street Journal. For decades, science has been baffled by how this crucial hormone works. After about 80 years of intense study, a team of scientists using many computers has been able to chart auxin. Auxin can now be charted in a thick book of complex data. The punchline is supposedly a “victory for Darwin!” In fact, this seems ONLY a victory for those who insist on design. Humans, working with many computers, can only chart the hormone. We still have no idea at all how it works and there is no way to duplicate it from the ground up and we can only play with it and tweak it a bit, given its existence in a laboratory.

    If you want a plant to actually grow, one needs this hormone (in addition to many other equally complex mechaisms!!)in all its incredible complexity. Evoluton explains nothing about this–it can only look at it.

    What does this say?

  10. David N. Friedman

    Having just read the Zoo Rabbi’s dispute with Rabbi Segal and trying to separate all the ruminations, upper and lower teeth, geographic disparities and what Chazal knew and did not know–this is surely a fascinating debate.

    It surely reminds me of the ID vs. Darwin debate and this makes me sympathetic to Rabbi Slifkin since he serves in the role of the ID scientist trying to poke holes in the conventional theory and not being treated very well in the exchange.

    Having just read this past week’s parashah Shemini and having very similar heated discussions over how Chazal (and Rashi) knew what animal was being referenced, I was told again and again that the animals cited were “of their kind” and this includes animals in the entire world.

    I understand how some of this knowledge may give people the confidence to declare that this proves the divine nature of the Torah and therefore, proofs that Chazal were wrong in their scientific knowledge become heretical words. And I can easily see how a young “zoo Rabbi” can ruffle the feathers of a distinguished and far older group of serious Torah scholars not granting much wiggle room about long-standing assumptions.

    I remain in the same place–I can sympathize with Rabbi Slifkin and I bemoan his lack of tact.

    I am still looking and judging the evidence as I see it.

  11. 1. “On the other hand, Rabbi Slifkin appealed to the Heredi gedolim for approval and approval is not an automatic thing. Simply by asking, Slifkin set HIMSELF up for possible censure.”

    Rabbi Slifkin did no such thing. He had endorsements from several rabbis, including 2 gedolim. The other gedolim, who were not asked, later banned him.

    2. “On the other hand, I find Rabbi Slifkin’s account of what happened mostly believable and I think this might reflect poorly on the gedolim except for the fact that they do not have to answer to popular opinion nor do they have a burden to act in what might be called a polite or democratic manner. If Rabbi Slifkin has been slighted by the gedolim, this is not so different than US courts and US judges mistreating innocent plaintiffs and taxpayers on a regular basis. For me, I believe the taxpayers can DEMAND a fair shake and not those writing in a religious context.”

    Halakhicly, Rabbi Slifkin had rights to due process. the gedolim you shill for violated those rights. they also signed a public ban accusing him of heresy, but when later pressed, had no proof of such heresy.

    3. What is it about “go away” that you do not understand?

  12. David N. Friedman

    So I argue in favor of Rabbi Slifkin that he should face no ban of his books and that I am sure he is not a heretic in the same way as Spinoza, for example, I state that I find much of his account believable and In RESPONSE you declare that I am acting as a “shill” for the gedolim and you want me to “go away” as a result. I shudder to think what you might have said if I had only positive things to say about the Rabbis and only critical words for Rabbi Slifkin!

    I dare say you must be incorect concerning the mere fact that Rabbi Slifkin wants desperately to have the approval of the gedolim since this is so much of the public record. My point stands that approval is not an automatic process and as I put it,, if good will and a strong moral case can still put one outside of the letter of the secular law, improper understandings, even if laden with good argument, can also put a young Rabbi outside of the halachically correct order.

    But before I grant you your wish and go away (why is this a public forum if you only want to discuss contentious issues with those in perfect agreement with your position?)I need to ask you to more clearly define your pro or anti evolution stand. You have on your website recommended books by Gerald Schroeder and I have held and read these books for some time. Very obviously, Schroeder is no friend of the evolutionary materialist’s position and blends seemlessly with the Aish Rabbi you also somehow deride on this blog. The Aish Rabbi is somehow off the deep end, in your eyes, but his colleague who writes on the literally the same section on the Aish website, Schroeder, is somehow OK. How is this the case? Is is science and Torah or is it materialism and evolution?

    If it is science and not Torah–why do you recommend Schroeder?

  13. I discuss contention issues with honest people who are familiar with the sources. You are neither.

  14. David N. Friedman

    Ok, now I am not “honest.” It is not polite to throw around accusations and I will not return the favor since you are so dead sure you are an honest man–I can simply assume you do not wish to show any of your honesty. What you do show on this blog is a good deal of incoherence.

    Look what you do to Rav Kook, misreading his openness to all ideas and his search for unity in the world as somehow in support of Darwin and a materialist philosophy. This cannot be demonstrated by anything Rav Kook acutally said, rather, it is your desire to twist his essays that all too many of us are familiar into a program that fits your narrow agenda.

    To say that Rav Kook, similarly, found merit in atheism is true but must be understood in context. Indeed, if another blogger on an atheist’s website proclaimed loudly that even Rav Kook agreed with him in the merits of his modern atheist arguments, I hope you might join me in defense of Rav Kook. It is the example of Rav Kook that might inform you to look at what all of us have in common and explore deeper truths instead of wrongly linking him with Darwin.

    “Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and physical phenomena are its byproducts…Suddenly humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cares nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than an evolving mass of neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us.” This is the languarge from Levine and Miller’s very widely distributed textbook: “Biology: Discovering Life.”

    Evolution is in opposition to the most fundamental Jewish message.

    I will now leave you to your blog so you can be content that all Orthodox Jewish Scientists are fools, the Aish Rabbis are fools, the gedolim are fools, I am a fool, Chazal were fools in light of modern science, etc.

  15. Okay, let’s look at this another way: YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND. The Rav Kook assertion is made by his disciples, and is the STANDARD UNDERSTANDING of Rav Kook in hesder yeshivot, Mossad HaRav Kook, etc.

    GO AWAY.

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