Category Archives: Rabbi Slifkin Book Ban

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

Marc Shapiro On The Age Of The Universe

[T]he entire received body of knowledge in just about every field of
human study is dependant on the fact that the world is not 5000 years
old and that there was not a flood. These facts are the fundamentals of
biology, physics, astronomy, history, anthropology, geology,
paleontology, zoology, linguistics, etc.

Belief in a 5000 year
old world and a flood which destroyed the world 4000 years ago is a
denial of all human knowledge as we know it.


Filed under Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Modern Orthodoxy, Rabbi Slifkin Book Ban, Torah and Science

Rabbi Moshe Tendler Backs Intelligent Design Quid-Pro-Quo Deal To Save Son Accused Of Abuse?

Mariah Blake of the Miami New Times reports :

On a recent Tuesday evening, Moshe Tendler, an influential Orthodox rabbi and Yeshiva University biology professor, ambled onto the stage at Kovens Conference Center in North Miami. A stately figure with a wispy white beard and heavy glasses, he surveyed the 300-strong crowd of scientists and intellectuals — most clad in yarmulkes and dark suits with tallith tassels dangling about their waists — and urged them to spread the word that Darwin was wrong. "It is our task to inform the world [about intelligent design]," he implored. "Or the child growing up will grow up with unintelligent design…. Unintelligent design is our ignorance, our stupidity."

This may seem an unlikely message from a prominent Jewish biologist. After all, intelligent design theory — which holds that life is too complex to be a fluke of evolution — has been crafted primarily by evangelical Christians and spurned by most scientists.

But some Jewish leaders, like Tendler, have begun to quietly embrace the theory. And several of them went public with their support during the Sixth Miami International Conference on Torah and Science, which ran from December 13 to 15 and was hosted by Florida International University’s religious studies department, the Shul of Bal Harbour, and B’Or Ha’Torah journal of science. In an area with the second highest concentration of Jews after New York — there are 113,000 in Miami-Dade alone — the event attracted about 1000 Jewish researchers, intellectuals, teachers, and students. There was also one prominent evangelical: Intelligent design luminary William Dembski was among the event’s featured speakers.

The conversation proved divisive. Tendler kicked off the conference by attacking the idea that complex life could flow from "random evolution." "That is irrational," he said.

As soon as Tendler finished speaking, biologist Sheldon Gottlieb rushed to one of two microphones perched in the aisles. "We all know evolution is not random," he grumbled. "It goes through the filter of natural selection…. You cannot use those arguments with this audience." Tendler and Gottlieb sparred for about five minutes. Meanwhile long lines began to form at the mikes. But the moderator cut the question-and-answer session short and sent the crowd home.

Dembski, a slender man in a tweed blazer and a forest green oxford shirt, spoke the following morning, and more than 400 people packed in to see him. Besides Jewish scientists and intellectuals, the crowd included students from the Hebrew Academy and the Lubavitch Educational Center, as well as a busload of girls from Orthodox Beis Chana School, who arrived with Pumas and Nikes tucked beneath their ankle-length skirts.

Much of Dembski’s talk concentrated on the evidence of design in nature. He offered the classic example of the tiny flagella that bacteria use to propel themselves through their environment. "They can spin at 100,000 rpm," Dembski marveled. "And then in a quarter-turn, they’re spinning the other direction. Imagine if a blender could do that…. Is it such a stretch to think a real engineer was involved?"

After about 45 minutes, Dembski wrapped up his talk, and dozens of attendees swarmed the microphones again, many of them eager to air their objections. "Our speaker has fuzzied the main issue," complained Nathan Aviezar, who teaches physics at Bar Ilan University in Israel. "The whole enterprise of science is to explain life without invoking supernatural explanations. Intelligent design is not science, it’s religion, and it shouldn’t be taught in science class."

The contentious Q&A lasted 25 minutes. When it was done, dozens of scientists rushed to the front to pelt Dembski with questions. The hubbub lasted so long that Sholom Lipskar of the Shul was pushed off the agenda.

Lipskar, a soft-spoken man with a thick charcoal beard and wire-rim spectacles, ranks among Miami’s most influential rabbis. And like Tendler, he believes Jews should back the intelligent design movement. "The fundamental question the theory answers is, accidental or intentional?" he explains. "If it’s accidental, then what’s the point? But if there’s design, we’re here for a reason." Lipskar also advocates bringing intelligent design into Jewish classrooms. "It should be taught together with chemistry and physics," he says.

In fact much of the debate at Torah and Science turned to whether intelligent design should be integrated into Jewish-school science classes; Miami’s Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education even signed on as a sponsor. The organization’s president, Chaim Botwinick, says the event is a harbinger. "Many Jewish schools are beginning to discuss making intelligent design an integral part of their curriculum," he explains. Among them, he adds, are a handful of schools in Miami, a city that has long been a stronghold of traditional Judaism.

What do the students think? Many of those who heard Dembski speak said they would like to study his ideas in class. "His words make sense," commented Annale Fleisher, a seventeen-year-old senior at Miami Beach’s Hebrew Academy. "Saying life comes from evolution is like saying a library was made by someone spilling a bottle of ink."

Nathan Katz, who heads the Center for the Study of Spirituality at FIU and was one of the conference organizers, says the enthusiasm some Torah devotees express for intelligent design reflects a growing alliance between traditional Jews and evangelical Christians. The two groups have found themselves on the same side of many culture war battles. And evangelicals have funneled tens of millions of dollars into Israel. "The monstrous evangelical support for that country has led some Orthodox Jews to be willing to listen to evangelicals on other issues," Katz explains.

For his part, Dembski hopes the conversation that began at the Torah and Science conference will continue, and that some Jewish scientists will eventually lend their talents to the intelligent design movement. "It would be huge in terms of PR because it would give lie to this idea that this is just a conservative Christian thing," he explains. "It would also expand our talent pool immensely."

But critics in the audience at the conference chafed at the prospect of Jewish scientists contributing to a movement that has stated as its goal the "overthrow" of "scientific materialism." "We would be helping to eliminate science as a discipline," said Aviezar. "And that would put us back in the Fifteenth Century. It would be a disaster."

The Rabbinical Council of America just issued a statement in support of evolution. Rabbi Tendler was a member of the RCA but has distanced himself from the group because of the RCA’s expulsion of Rabbi Tendler’s son after multipile sexual abuse allegations were made against him. Rabbi Tendler and his brother-in-law Rabbi Dovid Feinstein have worked to damage the RCA in any way possible. Could these two issues be linked? After all, Rabbi Feinstein was a leader of the ban (start from bottom of page and read upward) against Rabbi Slifkin and Rabbi Tendler did not speak up in Rabbi Slifkin’s behalf. Perhaps we have a kind of quid-pro-quo here.

Rabbi Tendler did not answer my earlier request for comment on Intelligent Design and his participation in this conference.


Filed under Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Modern Orthodoxy, Rabbi Slifkin Book Ban, Science

RCA: Evolution Compatible With Judaism

The Rabbinical Council of America, the largest Orthodox rabbinic organization in America, has issued a statement saying that Judaism and evolution are compatible:

Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design:
The View of the Rabbinical Council of America

December 22nd 2005
21 Kislev 5766

In light of the ongoing public controversy about Evolution, Creationism and Intelligent Design, the RCA notes that significant Jewish authorities have maintained that evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator, nor with the first 2 chapters of Genesis.

There are authentic, respected voices in the Jewish community that take a literalist position with regard to these issues; at the same time, Judaism has a history of diverse approaches to the understanding of the biblical account of creation. As Rabbi Joseph Hertz wrote, "While the fact of creation has to this day remained the first of the articles of the Jewish creed, there is no uniform and binding belief as to the manner of creation, i.e. as to the process whereby the universe came into existence. The manner of the Divine creative activity is presented in varying forms and under differing metaphors by Prophet, Psalmist and Sage; by the Rabbis in Talmudic times, as well as by our medieval Jewish thinkers." Some refer to the Midrash (Koheleth Rabbah 3:13) which speaks of God "developing and destroying many worlds" before our current epoch. Others explain that the word "yom" in Biblical Hebrew, usually translated as "day," can also refer to an undefined period of time, as in Isaiah 11:10-11. Maimonides stated that "what the Torah writes about the Account of Creation is not all to be taken literally, as believed by the masses" (Guide to the Perplexed II:29), and recent Rabbinic leaders who have discussed the topic of creation, such as Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, saw no difficulty in explaining Genesis as a theological text rather than a scientific account.

Judaism affirms the idea that God is the Creator of the Universe and the Being responsible for the presence of human beings in this world.
Nonetheless, there have long been different schools of thought within Judaism regarding the extent of divine intervention in natural processes. One respected view was expressed by Maimonides who wrote that "we should endeavor to integrate the Torah with rational thought, affirming that events take place in accordance with the natural order wherever possible.” (Letter to the Jews of Yemen) All schools concur that God is the ultimate cause and that humanity was an intended end result of Creation.

For us, these fundamental beliefs do not rest on the purported weaknesses of Evolutionary Theory, and cannot be undermined by the elimination of gaps in scientific knowledge.

Judaism has always preferred to see science and Torah as two aspects of the "Mind of God" (to borrow Stephen Hawking’s phrase) that are ultimately unitary in the reality given to us by the Creator. As the Zohar says (Genesis 134a): "istakel be-‘oraita u-vara ‘alma," God looked into the Torah and used it as His blueprint for creating the Universe.

For articles and sources on this subject, see Aryeh Carmel and Cyril Domb eds., "Challenge: Torah Views on Science and its Problems," Feldheim, N. Y. 1976; and Rabbi J. H. Hertz, The Pentateuch and Haftorahs (Soncino Press 1960), Additional Notes to Genesis.

The statement also supports a world far older than 6000 years. These were key points found to be heretical by the haredi ‘gedolim’ who banned Rabbi Nosson Slifkin and his works. Will these ‘gedolim’ ban the RCA as well, perhaps using the Tendler case as a starting point?

If the ‘gedolim’ do not do so, their silence will be further proof of their duplicity. If they do act, it will force many in the right wing Modern Orthodox and left wing haredi worlds to take sides. Neither of these outcomes bodes well for the haredi world and for those small men who lead it.


Filed under Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Modern Orthodoxy, Rabbi Slifkin Book Ban, Science

Yated Ne’eman On The Renewed Rabbi Slifkin Ban

Under a headline reading "Why We Censor," the Internet version of the Israeli Yated Ne’eman explains why it was necessary to ban Rabbi Nosson Slifkin:

…Many books include ideas mentioned by Slifkin, but only his were condemned. Why? Because of "the impudent and audacious spirit of throwing off the yoke (prikas ol) of the mesorah miSinai and our sages (rabboseinu hakedoshim) who are its bearers (maggidehoh)," that is not found in those others.

Are the rabbonim asking or telling us to stop thinking? Do they wish us to be intellectual wimps who cannot and do not evaluate critically what they hear?

What an absurd suggestion! If we close down our minds we will not even be able to understand the Torah that they transmit to us daily, not to mention the holy words of our Sages of previous generations back to Sinai. No intellectually honest person could say that our rabbonim do not want us to think! The often-heard response that pronouncements such as this one are anti-intellectual betray a desire to ridicule us and our rabbonim, not a serious charge.

Free, serious and deep inquiry is our goal, constantly pursued. But — yes there is a "but" — it must be within the spirit of Torah and not in the spirit of the secular world which is deeply, unremittingly hostile to Torah.…

When we faced the Greeks in the time of the Maccabim, the issues were clear and in the open. They said, "Write on the ox horn that you have no part in the G-d of Israel." You cannot get more direct than that. They did not let us learn Torah and do mitzvos. The violated our money and our daughters and our Sanctuary.

Now they leave our daughters alone (except for once-in-a- while attempts in the State of Israel). They shower us with wealth. They allow us to learn and to do mitzvos with hiddurim that were undreamed of by earlier generations.

Yet the spirit of the Western world, in its media, in its science, in its art, in its politics, is a challenge to the authentic Torah spirit from the floor to the rafters.

Just pick up a Mesillas Yeshorim and consider the catalogue of things that the Ramchal lists as inimical to the very first step of the Path of the Righteous (Chapter 5), and it is clear that modern society has raised the difficulty of overcoming them to new heights: 1] Dealing with distractions and necessities of the world; 2] Laughter and ridicule; 3] Pressures of an evil society.

The mass of modern media and communication make the temptations of excess in the first area stronger than they ever were, even as it has increased greatly the amount of information that we really have to deal with. The amount of comedy and ridicule has increased tremendously compared to any previous period, even as its prestige has grown, making it harder to dismiss. Finally, society is so intrusive, even as it is free, that it exerts tremendous pressure to conform to its increasingly decadent values.…

It is hard to know who is for us and who is against us. Our rabbonim do not reject modern society wholesale, but they draw lines for us: This is ok. Stay away from that.

Whoever wants to, is free to go it alone. He or she can plunge in to the treacherous waters of the modern world alone, and try to reach the truth heroically alone. It is a big task for an individual.

The rest of us will take shelter under the banner of gedolei Yisroel. As in the generation of Chanukah, so too in our generation — the gedolei veziknei hador cry out to us all: Mi laSheim eilai!

Whoever wants to reach Hashem should join them!

Rabbi Slifkin had rabbinic endorsement for his works, including the endorsement of at least one gadol who now bans him. But truth has never been an issue for haredim. Neither has decency or respect for the work of others. Rabbi Slifkin’s mistake was to try to make the haredi world fit with modern science. That cannot be done. Science is by definition an unrelenting search for truth. Harediism is a constant attempt at hiding from that truth, and is itself a lie.

The time has come to reject the haredi world, to stop "showering" them with money and respect. Do not fund their yeshivot and summer camps. Do not attend their dinners and fundraisers. Do not refer with honor to the men who banned Rabbi Slifkin, and do not follow their halakhic decisions.

Choose life.


Filed under Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Rabbi Slifkin Book Ban

Idiocy In The Name Of Torah

On The Main Line has posted a section of a fundrasing brochure from a Bnei Brak-based nonprofit describing the visit of a gadol (haredi rabbinic leader), a leading signer of the Rabbi Slifkin Ban, to the nonprofit’s offices:

Why are so many stations necessary?" he asked. The telephones at the stations of the steady operators were ringing non-stop…."But how is it that a person contributes over the phone? How does the money come in?" he asked. The gabbai [assistant] briefly explained how a credit card works.

"But the contributor doesn’t even sign anything… he’s contributing over the phone!" Harav Steinman asked again. "But what if he changes his mind?" he went on….It was astounding to see to what extent maran, shlit"a, who is immersed in Torah study day and night, is cut off from the financial nature of our daily lives in the modern world. At the same time, it was fascinating to see how quickly he caught on when the matter was outlined in the briefest detail.

The man did not know how a credit card works. Earth To Haredim: GET NEW LEADERS! YOUR SHIP IS SINKING!


Filed under Haredim, Rabbi Slifkin Book Ban

Aish HaTorah On Creationism

Aish HaTorah’s Rabbi Yakov Salomon has made a short flash video on creationism in the classroom.  His basic thesis is as follows:

  1. "Evolutionists" only allow one way of teaching – Darwinian evolution.
  2. "Creationists" are flexible – teach evolution and other opinions like creationism side-by-side.
  3. "Evolutionists" hold creationism in the classroom is unconstitutional.
  4. "Benjamin Franklin" wrote in the Declaration of Independence that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …" (He actually garbles the quote. See the video.) "Is the Declaration of Independence unconstitutional?" Rabbi Salomon asks.

Of course, Rabbi Salomon is very poorly informed (or he’s lying – take your pick). In order:

  1. Scientists will allow any scientific, peer-reviewed theory to be taught as science.
  2. Creationism and Intellegent Design are not peer-reviewed because they are not science.
  3. Scientists hold Creationism is a religious teaching and not science, and therefore cannot be taught as science. (It could be taught in a compararative religion class, though.)
  4. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration, not Benjamin Franklin. The Declaration is not now, nor was it at the time of its signing, science, and no one is attempting to have it taught in the classroom as such.

Stupidity and deceit seem to be dominating the outreach business in this post-Rabbi Slifkin ban era.


Filed under Haredim, Lies, Spin and 'Creative' PR, Rabbi Slifkin Book Ban, Science