Saturday, October 31, 2009

Apparent Age

In a recent post at Seforim, R. Marc B. Shapiro takes a shot at historical revisionism at the expense of the apparent age approach:

Any written record will be rejected as a YU-Haskalah forgery, or something that God miraculously created to test our faith, all in order to avoid the conclusion that an authentic Torah scholar taught at YU

Leitzanus is making light of the serious, and in my opinion attempts to understand the conflict between the scientific evidence and the Torah's narrative is a serious matter. While is is not clear to me that R. Shapiro would be so dismissive about the apparent age approach itself (since it wasn't really his topic and I don't recall him discussing it in anything I have read), by taking this approach to it's illogical conclusion one creates a false analogy between this position and the absurd example he hypothesized. Such mock-analogies silence a reasoned analysis of differences in favor a smug, hastily-generalized dismissal of such an "absurd" position. Even if it wasn't his intent, and it certainly wasn't his primary one, the damage is done.

Of course there is a major difference between arguing that the world was created with apparent age and the speculative argument that evidence was miraculously planted that a Talmid Chacham worked for an institution deemed politically incorrect. While in the later case we have no reason to assume such a belief, in the former we have God's own account that He created to world from nothing a couple of generations before Yetzias Mitzrayim. Likewise it is a necessary inference that the world would have some appearance of prior age based on the narrative itself, and indications from Chazal that at least the living creatures where created in full stature (despite the fact that such stature would indicate prior age/growth/development in any other context).

Granted, this doesn't in any way give us reason TO accept the Torah's account, it just simply illustrates that the conflict presented by the material evidence need not contradict the Torah's account.

I would add that I don't think that the apparent age needs to be understood as an attempt for God to test us per se. I am inclined to think that a materialistic explanation for the world's existence which seems plausible is necessary for free will. Nevertheless I think that it is reasonable to say that while God chose to create the world as He described, He coordinated the implicit apparent age in such a scenario with how He designed the world to operate according to teiva. Such a "past" isn't false, it is as real as the light we see every night from stars long dead, it is a retroactive existence which, it seems to me, fulfills both a scientific and theological role which complements the Torah as much as it conflicts.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Farewell to Geocities

I was reminded, just in time, that any moment now Geocities (and my small corner there) will cease to exist. I have long used writing as a way to help formulate and refine my thoughts, and have never been that shy about sharing them. My Geocities site was the result of some of my earlier attempts and a Html class which I took. I like to think it was simplistic but a little elegant in its design. While many may find fault, I think that the picture of Torah Judaism I presented was on target. I only rarely updated it once it was established (I know my readers have a hard time imagining me being tardy with posting), certainly not as much as I intended. Slowly, but surely I did receive hits. In the end there were over 26740 of them! I noticed at times my counter zeroed out, and later discovered that it would do so if a page received no visits for a certain period. It is therefor likely that the number was much higher, not bad for a few pages floating on their own in cyberspace.

Recently a non-Jewish gentlemen contacted me after reading my biography. We shared the same hometown, but in different decades. When I asked my father if he recognized the name (since my Dad lived there at the same time) he informed me he was a cousin of mine.

It was fun while it lasted....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Machzikei Hadasim

Our readers ask... (well maybe not precisely)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

בכח ידי עשיתי and Science Daily

"ScienceDaily (2009-10-20) -- Jerusalem's geology has been crucial in molding it into one of the most religiously important cities on the planet, according to a new study....
The Assyrians laid siege to the city in 701 BCE, but failed to conquer it. It was the only city in history to successfully fend them off"

I (God) will deal with the fruits of the Assyrian king's conceit, and with the glory of his arrogant eyes. For he said , 'With the strength of my hand have I accomplished (בכח ידי עשיתי)--- It is as if a rod could shake those who lift it; as if a stick could lift one who is not wood! (Isaiah 10:12,13, 15)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Shalom Aleichem

I just wanted to touch base with everyone. Tishrei has been a busy time. In addition to so many uplifting Yomim Tovim, I've been working on a side project, and have had a number of personal issues arise. I would like to thank all of you who have continued to visit.

B'ezras Hashem, I will have some new posts soon, and have a chance to give R. Waxman's comments their due.

In the meantime, we've been at this for over a year now, so I would like to highlight Parshas B’reishis: In the Beginning, Brias HaOlam according to the Torah and the contemporary scientific understanding and Parshas Noach: Evidence for a Global Flood?