Which came first, dinosaurs or Adam and Eve?

Yup, today I had to field that one.

“Daddy, there’s something that doesn’t make sense. Did dinosaurs come before Adam and Eve, or after? I thought dinosaurs came before people showed up on Earth, but then how did God make Adam and Eve first?”

Yikes! What do I answer? Do I tell him that the second chapter tells a slightly different story than the first chapter of Bereshit (Genesis)? Do I tell him that scientists date dinosaurs millions of years prior to the arrival of homo sapiens, and while that doesn’t conflict with the first chapter in Genesis if one assumes that by “day” the Torah means “millions of years,” it conflicts with a literal reading of the chapter and any reading of the second chapter? Do I tell him that the Torah was written by men and this is a creation story with its roots in mythology?

He obviously believes there’s a God and is trying to make sense of what this means. He also clearly believes in biblical stories, just as he believes what his science teacher tells him about dinosaurs. But I’m afraid that if I tell him what I believe, I will damage his confidence in the Torah and in God.

Oh yeah, last week he asked, “Daddy, what happens to us if we don’t eat kosher?”

I’m clearly not smart enough to be a father.


  1. D

    6/5/2005 at 1:42 am

    Well, the way I understood it is as follows.
    We know the creation took “6 days”. Adam wasn’t created until Friday and as far as we know 6 “days” in G-d’s time can be 6 milleniea. When talking about the concept of time in reference to G-d, as far as the 6 days of creation is concerned, maybe G-d didn’t do it instantly. Maybe he let everything evolve and erode, which maks room for dinosaurs to come round.

    As far s the death of the dinos, the flood can cover that one.

    This explanation of mine is a very very vague interpertation of a lecture I heard at a Discovery seminar by a man named Dr. Schroeder. He wrote a book called ‘Genesis and the Big Bang’

    You can get it by clicking here

  2. Seth Chalmer

    6/5/2005 at 1:58 am

    Well, the answer to who came first is, of course: the dinosaurs. God made the beasts first. And those particular beasts didn’t really work out, so God edited them out before moving on to us. (Jury’s still out on whether we worked out.) It only figures God didn’t bother to tell us about the dinosaurs in Bereshit. It must be a sore point with God.

    But seriously, folks, to the question of science and creation: they’re different arenas. Why do we perceive this great conflict? It’s like love and physiology. Both are true. Yes, we are driven by evolution to seek sexual relationships, and because we are social, to have strong emotional ties to our mates. But it is also true that we can fall in love–real, spiritual, soul-mate love. There’s no conflict there. It’s all true. The same with creation.

    A.J. Heschel said that whatever we say about God is neither literally true nor LESS than literally true; it is MORE than literally true. The essence of Creation was amazing beyond the ability of our minds to grasp. The closest we can come to describing God’s great work of Creation is the attempt to describe it in Bereshit. Science just deals with the nuts and bolts of that, which is much more boring, and less important in matters of the heart and soul. God would no more include the science (which is true) in the Torah than you would say to your wife: “Honey, thanks to such and such a biological drive, honed by such and such natural selections, and tempered by such and such hormone, I love you.”


  3. yoseph crack

    6/5/2005 at 2:06 am

    when i was a kid in “M.O.” day school, i carried a dissonance about Torah truths and Science truths, and didn’t stress too much the reconciliation,or feel obigated to “pick one” Because who knows?

    I do believe in Dinosaurs, despite being told by rebbes not to. the impulse to create theories about what how much time a “day” equals is tempting, but why not just leave it open, and wait for the clarity? it’s not like fossil records affect our day to day life or modern moral struggle. or do they?

    Tripping once, i had a vision of clarity of the process of growth of the world. it started ith water, and then got boring, then plants, which was a nice change of pace but couldn’t reach beyond.

    Theres a theory by tom Robbins in a bunch of his books: all life is based on water. What if we evolved just to move water further? it works on a metaphorical/kabbalistical level too.

    So dinosaurs, they survive an move water very well, but their priority is not innovaive or exploratory so much, so… life goes on. maybe we’ll get the water somewhere.

    I once heard Dovid Hertberg Z’l say when does water really become happy, become redeemed? It’s been pissed off ever since it was forced to separate, when does it come back together and feel like it was all worthwhile? when tzaddikim cry, real tears of longing or joy, and it became clear to me, also when they sweat real sweat.

  4. Fun Joel

    6/5/2005 at 2:16 am

    While not very satisfying to many others, the explanation I once heard and found most appealing is that just as Hashem created Adam and Chava as adults, he also created the Earth as an “adult” world with a past. Thus he could have created the Earth with fossilized dinosaurs already in it.

    This answer is not from a halachic source, but I always found it appealing on an emotional level.

    Of course, re your child, I’d just say that dinosaurs were created before humans, and see if he accepts that. Hell, all the animals were created before us!

  5. Liora

    6/5/2005 at 6:17 am

    So what did you tell him, TM?

  6. celestial blue

    6/5/2005 at 8:03 am

    Whoa now… rebbes told you not to believe in dinosaurs??? Just pretend like it didn’t happen?? LOL!

  7. Ben-David

    6/5/2005 at 8:47 am

    Uh, hello – why are people on this list saying they “believe” in dinosaurs? We’ve dug up the skeletons and dated them, folks. It’s not a matter of faith.

    And I really don’t like the “G-d made an old world” approach – like all our science is a cosmic fake out? Intellect is a gift from G-d, we are not supposed to surrender it. Nor does got play such “tricks” on humanity.

    I am Orthodox and also hold a degree in physics. I have also read (and recommend) the lectures and books of Gerald Schroeder, although they are not so clearly written.

    Basically, what I “believe” is: the six “days” of creation in the Biblical story are, in face, eons – there is solid mainstream Orthodox opinion dating back to medieval scholars that does not take this story literally, so this is not such a jump.

    Adam and Eve – i.e. the creation/evolution of self-aware, morally aware humans – takes place on the last day. This jibes with the scientific record, as well: humans are a late development.

    Even a small child can understand that Tuesday comes before Friday. So the dinosaurs are the “great lizards” mentioned in the Biblical account. They died out before Adam and Eve. I think this can be explained to a child.

    For an in-depth, broad-ranging, nuanced discussion of the age of the universe from an Orthodox Jewish perspective, try the hirhurim blog at hirhurim.blogs...

  8. themiddle

    6/5/2005 at 9:52 am

    Ben David, how do you explain the Garden of Eden story, which conflicts both with the Creation story as it appears in Chapter One, and with your chronology of animals before man?

    Liora, I said, “That’s an excellent question that is so good and so complicated I have to think about the answer and get back to you.” My initial response was to tell him what Ben David just said, but I suspected that he was asking me because he had been exposed recently to the Garden of Eden story, which differs in the chronology.

    Then I came to Jewlicious to learn more and to try to sort out for myself what I want to tell him and how to present it.

    • God's Child

      1/9/2011 at 10:20 am

      Everyone, go get your bible.
      In Genesis, Chapter 1 God created the heavens and earth in 7 days.

      God tell you WHAT he did on each of the six days and on the 7th day he rested. We do not know how long a day was for God but we do know it wasn’t in 24 hour period as we have it today.

      Verse 11 states: God said, “I command the earth to produce all kinds of plants, including fruit trees and grain.” And that’s what happened. The earth produced all kinds of vegetation.

      Verse 24 in Chapter 1 states: God said,”I command the earth to give life to all kinds of tame animals, wild animals and reptiles.” And that’s what happened. God made every one of them.

      Verse 27 states: God said, “Now we will make humans and they will be like us. (which means that God and the angels were already here). God doesn’t say in what order this was done but he does say it in Chapter 2.

      Chapter 2 tell us about the garden of Eden and HOW God created man and the animals.

      Verses 7-9 states: The Lord God took a handful of soil and made a man. God breathed life into the man, and the mand started breathing. The Lord made a garden in a place called Eden, which was in the east, and he put the man there. The Lord God placed (not created but put there) all kinds of beautiful trees and fruit trees in the garden.

      Verses 18-20 states: The Lord God said, “It isn’t good for the man to live alone. I need to make a suitable partner for him.” So the Lord took some soil and made animals and birds. He brought them to the man to see what names he would give each of them. Then the man named the tame animals and the birds and the wild animals. (I’m sure dinosaurs were considered wild animals.) That’s how they got their names.

      So, the Bible states that Man came first then the animals so that they could be a partner to the man, but that none of the animals were the right kind of partner for the man.

      Don’t believe what I say about God didn’t give us the order in which came first in Chapter 1? Try this. “On Saturdays, I shop, clean house, do laundry and see friends”. Do we know in what order they were done? No we do not. We speak in what we did, not neccessary in the order that we did them.

      Same is true of God in this sense. He told us What he did on the 6th day in Chapter 1 and how he did it in Chapter 2. God has a sense of humor. He got what he wanted; us discussing this topic eons of years later.

  9. Dina

    6/5/2005 at 10:38 am

    I know that if someone had explained to me that the Torah we read is just the “adapted for the human mind” version of the Torah God has, lots of things would have made more sense to me. There are three levels to the Torah: Torah, Midrash, and Yesod. Sometimes, for concepts from the Yesod part to be explained to us in Torah, we need stories. The point is not the story but the symbolisms and message.

    Of course, you could just show your son that in the Torah it says, “vayivrah Elokim et taninim hagedolim” (Bereishet 1:21)–that HaShem created giant sea creatures. This was before Adam and Chava, and if he sees that it says it straight out in the Torah, it’s pretty easy to understand. We don’t know what kind of sea creatures those are, but if he keeps asking such bright questions–maybe one day he’ll be such a big talmud chachum that he’ll understand it and get to explain to others! (At least that’s what I’d say.)

  10. josh

    6/5/2005 at 2:25 pm

    I think the zohar tells of this a few worlds that were created and ‘broken up’ before ours (final one?). On one hand, how do you explain the zohar to your son, on the other hand, in messianic times, kids will be learning sod/hidden stuff.

  11. Me

    6/5/2005 at 6:56 pm

    I’m with Fun Joel on this one. As an archaeologist and an observant Jew, this is the explanation that sits best in my opinion.
    There’s nothing as far as I’m aware in the Torah to negate this opinion, and it sits ok with science, although I wouldn’t go as far as to teach it as unrefuted fact in an archaeology class.
    It works with the medieval commentary that each “day” of creation was actually eons in time as well.

  12. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/5/2005 at 11:44 pm

    Dear themiddle,

    Do you think youre education has prepared for this day?

  13. themiddle

    6/6/2005 at 12:35 am

    Yes Netsach, I am well prepared. For example, I knew right away why he was confused, which verses were involved, was able to locate the verses in seconds and then read them in their original and quite beautiful biblical Hebrew.

    It’s the fathering part – where I have to decide whether to teach him something in which I don’t believe so that he will continue to believe and his world will remain shaped by magical forces – for which my education didn’t prepare me.

  14. Justin

    6/6/2005 at 11:25 am

    I usually take the days=eons rout, only more allegorically yet. Essentially the sevend days of creation can be taken as showing that the universe, and life itself came in waves and phases. If you try to match things up too specifically it tends to fall apart (and I have no idea what to do with Genesis 2). But my favorite allegory is “let there be light!” = the separation of the Grand Unified Force into the Four Forces of nature (one of which, of course, is the electromagnetic force–light).

  15. esther

    6/6/2005 at 11:52 am

    I guess I’m not as smart as everyone else here. Once you start bringing in electromagnetic force, you’ve lost me.

    Somehow, with all the problems I may have with the way Torah is taught, I never saw the conflict; maybe it was the “day does not equal 24 hrs” theory, taught to us when we were very little. But it never really occurred to me to try to prove the Biblical text through science or v.v. I always found room for them both in my understanding of the world. If you say the Bible’s man-written, then you can chalk the discrepancy up to human error or our incomplete knowledge of archeological history. If you say it’s verbatim the word of God, then it’s something that we just need to accept, logic and scientific/archeological discovery be damned.

    I do admit, that when I was a kid, I was obsessed with dinosaurs. (And even took a course in them in college.)

  16. grandmuffti

    6/6/2005 at 12:11 pm

    It was Grandmuffti, then dinosaurs, then Adam then Eve. That was the actual order.

  17. themiddle

    6/6/2005 at 12:15 pm

    Aah, I see someone might be less qualified to be a father…

  18. grandmuffti

    6/6/2005 at 12:23 pm

    I see. You choose to lie to your children about how the world came to be, and substitute real science with fairy tales. But Muffti is the unqualified guy for fatherhood…

  19. themiddle

    6/6/2005 at 12:35 pm

    Yes. 😆

  20. esther

    6/6/2005 at 12:58 pm

    The way I understand it, no one is really ever prepared to answer all of the questions that kids can pose. “Real science”? “Fairy tales”? “Philosophy”? They’re all versions of a truth that can never be satisfactorily proven.

  21. Conserva-Girl

    6/6/2005 at 1:09 pm

    Hey, look! The ‘rents have taken over Jewlicious and all they can do is talk about their kids! 😉

    This is a great discussion. My kids were old enough when they started dayschool that they already knew the truth about dinosaurs and the origins of the universe…

    But in all seriousness, there is a big problem out there with inconsistences in the teaching of how things started. It’s helpful, as an adult, to see the creation story as allegorical- but to a young orthodox dayschool-educated child, a day is 24 hours, light came first, and dinosaurs are an abstract concept.

    I experienced a stunning moment a few years ago when I was helping out at an ultra-frum camp-out. A high school girl and I were oohing and aahing over the night sky- being from Brooklyn, she’d never seen so many stars in her life. She asked me what I knew about astronomy (she knew I had a science background), so I told her that the light from these stars had traveled for millions of years to reach us & isn’t that remarkable?!! I looked over at her: stunned silence… “But the world is only 5,763 years old?…,” she squeaked. Oops. I blew her head apart without even trying.

    In contrast, I drove up north through Vermont and into Canada with a Lubovitch friend. Along the way, we were marveling at the rock formations along the highway. She told me how amazing she thought it was that the rock had been pushed up from the earth in so many different directions.

    Whoa! Now it was my own mind exploding. I asked her how she was reconciling geophysical changes over large periods of time with the Torah’s version of creation. She actually laughed at me- and told me it was only a problem if I insisted on seeing the days of creation as 24 hours.

    The lesson I draw from these two experiences is that it is quite possible to reconcile science and Torah if you aren’t afraid of what you may learn. However, if your faith is so ordered and brittle that scientific evidence is enough to shake your foundation, maybe it’s better to be left in the dark (there was a major brouhaha over the books by ZooTorah’s Rabbi Slifkin- just a few months ago, his books were banned and he was put into Cherem- for real!- for believing that science and Torah could co-exist).

    As far as the kids are concerned- it’s probably better to tell them what *you* believe about scientific matters. Knowledge always trumps ignorance.

  22. grandmuffti

    6/6/2005 at 1:37 pm

    Muffti always likes lines like ‘it was only a problem if I insisted on seeing the days of creation as 24 hours’.
    Like, believing in God is only a problem for Muffti if you insist on looking at God as an abstract all powerful being. If you think of ‘creation’ as just ‘nature’ and God’s miracles as ‘nice stories’ and the ‘laws’ as a moral code made up by people over many years, Muffti is a theist (so long as you don’t insist by ‘theist’ something like ‘guy who believes in God’.) Yay! Redefining can resolve all disputes, can’t it!

  23. themiddle

    6/6/2005 at 1:49 pm

    I’m confident that my son will be familiar with science and that’s not a concern here. For me one of the questions is whether one should tell a child everything about everything from a young age. Right now, he is experiencing the wonder of the biblical stories and grappling with the notion of what god is and isn’t. He is also trying to wrap his mind around the concept of an omnipotent and omniscient god. What is god? What are his powers? Where does man stand in a universe with a god?

    I see this is a building block in his future decisions about faith. I could easily crush it with a couple of choice pieces of information, but why do so? Muffti cannot disprove god’s existence, just as I can’t disprove that Moses went up to Mount Sinai and brought down some tablets. The things I believe, I have come to believe over a period of decades where I was exposed to a great deal of information that conflicted with other information. However, I definitely also went through some periods in my youth where I believed in God and they have shaped my view of Judaism and of Jews, especially Jews who are faithful and observant, in a positive way.

  24. esther

    6/6/2005 at 1:55 pm

    The ‘rents have not “taken over” Jewlicious: they have merely “occupied” it. But just wait…one day soon, we nonparentals will end the occupation.

  25. Conserva-Girl

    6/6/2005 at 2:01 pm

    Bwah ha ha ha (evil laughter)

    We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

  26. ben-david

    6/6/2005 at 2:13 pm

    Ben David, how do you explain the Garden of Eden story, which conflicts both with the Creation story as it appears in Chapter One, and with your chronology of animals before man?
    – – – – – – – – – –
    One mainstream interpretation – again based on Midrash – is that the second chapter (Garden of Eden story) took place on the First Friday (sounds like a Catholic holiday…).

    The Eden story is then a parable of the birth of human consciousness. The full realization of Adam and Eve as beings with free will and human moral dimensions is then the pinnacle of the Creation. All is now perfectly imperfect in a Jewlicious way, and the first Sabbath comes.

    This interpretation yields a lot of insight when you think it through – and is an especially useful counterpoint to Xtian folderol about original sin.

    There is no “Fall of Man” – until they sin, they are not aware that they have free choice. This distances them from G-d while simultaneously opening the possibility of a higher (re)union, one that combines freely-willed love with obedience.

    Search the web for articles on this by Rabbi David Aaron. Good stuff.

  27. ben-david

    6/6/2005 at 2:16 pm

    A propos the ‘rents takin over:

    It was grandmufti, then dinosaurs, then Adam and Eve. That was the actual order.
    – – – – – – – – –
    … and he’s STILL not married.

    Tsk. Tsk.

  28. grandmuffti

    6/6/2005 at 3:28 pm

    Ben-david, the STILL part seems to implicate that Muffti has been TRYING to get married…

  29. esther

    6/6/2005 at 3:57 pm

    Here’s another “Mommy” story at AidelMaidel

  30. Joe Schmo

    6/6/2005 at 4:06 pm

    I did not look at this site for a few days and actually got work done.
    Now I come back and I see my exact discussion and warning to TM.

    There is no in between. You want to bring your kid up Jewish and not intermarry. But then you don’t accept that the torah was given to our fathers as they told us.

    You are correct. There is an unbridgeable schism between those Jews who don’t deny their history and understand the covenant and those others whether conservative or deformed who who have denied it.

    Now I will tell you the answer as I understand it.

    1. First of all there is no contradiction between the first two chapters. The second chapter happened during the seven days of creation and much of the second chapter happened on the sixth day.

    The Torah explains things in logical chunks. It first explains the seven days listing what happened on each. It then goes back to give specifics. What do you suggest it do? Break up the flow and insert extraneous details right in the middle?

    2. There is no question that what Fun Joel said is correct. Can aybody imagine Adam being created as an infant? He was of course created a grown man. Do you think Adam had to wait years in order to eat from a fruit tree – until the tree grew from a seed?!

    3. Dinosaurs and other creatures I’m sure existed. Dogs and cats also existed. Does that mean that they existed ‘millions’ of years ago? I don’t believe so.

    Many events happened in the world. The dating used by the scientists are not at all accurate in the real world. In a test tube they might be but in the real world they are affected by variables such as temperature and pressure both of which speed up the process so that 1 year under heat and pressure can equal who knows how many thousands un a test tube.
    As an example anything killed during the great flood in the times of Noah would be dated wrong due to the tremendous pressure and heat of the waters. The great flood in the times of Noah killed just about every species on land.

    Do you TM or anyone else here trully understand the dating methods used? Do you know that carbon dating for example is only accurate to up to 10 thousand years? I saw that written at the ‘tar pits,’ a museum in California, in between the showcases of animals found that were supposedly millions of years old. Do you know how they date dinosaurs?
    Here is a discussion that I found talking about this:

    I am willing to learn.

    But one thing I am unwilling to do is to accept on belief alone without understanding it.

    Apparently you, Mufti and others are willing to accept ‘scientific facts’ without questioning or understanding the science behind it;
    but to accept what you own great-grandparents testified about history that was SEEN -that you don’t accept.

    Very smart.

  31. Grace

    6/6/2005 at 5:31 pm

    Um, even if Carbon dating is off by 10,000 years or so, that still doesn’t add up to 5,763.

    I believe that G-d does not exist in time, so He used a unit of time that would be easy for the early Hebrews to relate to.

    The Ramban states that “the story of Creation tells of when the major categories of the universe came into existence only in very general terms, because its PRIMARY PURPOSE (emphasis mine) is to state that nothing came into being except at G-d’s command.”

    In other words, if you spend all your time trying to make the stories match up, you’re missing the whole point of the lesson. Missing the forest for the trees, as it were.

  32. themiddle

    6/6/2005 at 5:40 pm

    Schmo! Actually, I do accept that the Torah was given to us by our fathers. It’s the miracles, God’s revealing himself to the Israelites and giving the Torah at Sinai rather than indirectly inspiring a really good writer or two (even if his name was Moses) with which I have some difficulty. I don’t challenge Israelite religion or its permutations, and fully believe that a Temple existed in Jerusalem led by Cohanim.

    Having said that, the carbon dating comment you made is a red herring since carbon dating only goes back about 70,000 years.

    Here’s an article about dating ancient fossils.

    If I understand the underlying premise of your comments, Schmo, I have to gather that it doesn’t matter to you whether I am Jewish or whether my child is raised Jewish.

  33. Me

    6/6/2005 at 5:50 pm

    Joe Schmo: your comments are interesting if particularly narrow-minded.
    Using your same argument, what of the civilisations (eg Egyptian) that date their written record back thousands of years before the Earth was created 5763 years ago?
    The Torah was not written “in logical chunks”. So much of it is illogical that it is a joke to say so. It was written to highlight a moral code for the Jews.

  34. DiGiTaL

    6/6/2005 at 7:57 pm

    wait till he starts asking about where babies come from, and what he saw the other day playing doctor, you’ll long for questions about Adam and Dinosaurs

  35. Conserva-Girl

    6/6/2005 at 8:28 pm

    I have a degree in biology, and I’m having a really hard time understanding exactly what you’re saying about test tubes, real world, temperature and pressure. I think you really need to look into this stuff a bit more.

    First off, carbon dating is useful for dating things back to about 50,000 years, not 10,000. You can go back about 8, maybe 9 half-lives of C-14 with good results; a half-life is about 5700 years (gee whiz!- almost the age of the world!!). If you read about and understand the concept, you would know that there are ways of calibrating the measurements to render the best results. Some methods work better than others, but advances in the field have made modern measurements more accurate than those done in earlier times.

    Incidentally, the arguement that carbon dating is useless for samples over 10,000 years old is a popular one in X-tian “Creationist” circles.

    As for temperature and pressure, sure they’re important. But to say that they are the major influential forces of nature would be like me telling you that the basic elements of matter are earth, wind and fire. Like I said before, knowledge trumps ignorance.

    If anything, you’ve made a brilliant argument for an expanded science curriculum in dayschools and yeshivot.

    …I’m glad to see my degree came in handy for something…

  36. Joe Schmo

    6/6/2005 at 8:32 pm

    Grace, I wasn’t saying that it is off by 10,000 years but that it can only date to ‘within’ 10,000 years.

    TM, I have seen a few numbers of how up until how far back carbon dating is accurate. The 10,000 number I saw on a plaque in a museum – the ‘tar pit’ museum.
    Here I found a web site for it: tarpits.org/

    Apparently some estimate the limit to be 30,000 and some 70,000.

    I am not sure which part of my comments implied anything about whether I care about your being Jewish. Of course I care. You have to undestand though that when you bring your child up that is is no real middleground. Once you say that the events in the Torah that your great-grandparents knew becasue it was their history- are not accurate… you can only expect total rejection by your child later on. Why would somebody keep difficult laws if they were written by a ‘really good writer?!’ If your child will remain even partially committed consider yourself lucky.


    I was not aware that any civilizations date anything past around 6,000 years ago. I would be very interested in learning about that.
    Any references?

    I would like you to show me anything ‘illogical.’

    I have gone to yeshivah and I have studied extensively – but I am willing to learn.

    Please give me some references to illogical places because I have yet to come upon such a place.

  37. Conserva-Girl

    6/6/2005 at 9:40 pm

    Here’s a link to a site that’s a good introduction to radiocarbon dating. It’s easy to understand and pretty interesting.

  38. Daniel

    6/6/2005 at 10:40 pm

    Einstein’s limit on the speed of light says the world is old. The world is old because we see light that travelled billions of light years to reach us. Vayehi or! lol (does that answer the dino question?)

    I’m more impressed by the magnitude of the universe than with dinosaurs. If you ever have trouble with religion just look up at night sky. That is a billion billion billion worlds. Hashem put a lot of stuff out there. Judaism is not incompatible with science. We just need to accept that we are very tiny and insignificant compared to the awesome powers beyond our control. Thereby, Hashem is everywhere.

  39. Big-nose Vilna ghetto Harpy

    6/6/2005 at 10:40 pm

    Oy, I don’t have the patience or time to read all the comments but I trust they’re well intended. Let me just skip to the heart of this: TM, level with your son as best you know how. Kids eventually wise up to their parents’ obfuscations.

    By adolescence, he’ll figure everything you tell him is baloney. Don’t start early and give him more ammunition than he needs.

    Good luck, whatever you tell him.

  40. Joe Schmo

    6/6/2005 at 10:52 pm

    I read through the site but there was no mention of tempurature or pressure.

    My question is simple. Will a specimen at the bottom of the ocean (under a lot of pressure) carbon-age at the same or different rate than something on dry land.

    Will a specimen in Antartica carbon-age at the same rate as a specimen in Florida?

    What about a specimen at the bottom of the Arctic ocean (to combine pressure and tempurature)?

  41. themiddle

    6/6/2005 at 10:54 pm

    Schmo, it doesn’t make a difference whether it’s 30 or 70 thousand years since we’re talking about millions of years.

    According to National Geographic, they have found homo sapien fossils dating back 160,000 years.

    Now I wonder, Joe, how does this affect your beliefs? How do you reconcile what you’re learning in this discussion with your previous ideas about this topic?

    Anyway, with respect to your all or nothing view of Judaism, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to get over this narrow-minded perspective.

    One can live as a traditional Jew and raise traditional Jewish children without having them “reject” everything. I don’t “reject” everything. If anything, notice that you observe out of awe and fear, or perhaps because you grew up this way and it’s the only way you know, while I observe out of respect for our culture and traditions, as well as a sense that this choice I make to live as a Jew and raise my child as a Jew is one that matters deeply to me.

  42. themiddle

    6/6/2005 at 10:57 pm

    ANNE!!!! It’s so nice to see you again!

    Notice, Anne, that I haven’t lied to my son. I have merely postponed giving him an answer, and will likely give him an answer that is accurate, although a lawyer may sense that I’m omitting some info. That info will come, but probably in a little while, I really don’t want to disrupt the current learning process with respect to God.

  43. Wine Guy

    6/7/2005 at 1:36 am

    Conserva Girl

    As I understand it Carbon 14 dating is based on the ussumption that the amount of C 14 in the atmosphere(and organic matter) remains relitively constant but apparently there have been certain studies that have shown this not to be the case. it might be worth looking into it but allas my bed looks much more inviting.

  44. Joe Schmo

    6/7/2005 at 1:53 am

    TM my point is that i am not at all convinced of the accuracy of the dating schemes used. I know what it says in national geographic.

    My point is that you accept whatever is written even without understanding it when it is a ‘scientist’ saying it.

    Scientists also have to back themselves up. There is a reason its still called the THEORY of evolution. That is because it is just a theory.

    It seems that in real life the dating has often been wrong. Thats what my first link was about:

    I also have a simple logical question on it that had to do with temperature and pressure- that was not yet addressed by anybody neither the anthropologist or the biologist (me and conserva-girl).

    Why TM are you so easy to accept things without understanding them?

  45. Joe Schmo

    6/7/2005 at 2:01 am

    wine guy I understand that, conserva-girl gave a nice link.

    My point is that it is sort of obvious in chemistry and biology that any rate of change defined is always assuming a certain temperature and pressure. If you put an item under higher pressure or under more heat the rate of change usually speeds up. Before I personally come to any conclusions I need to know what would happen if those variables change. Hence my question in my comments above.

  46. Ben-David

    6/7/2005 at 2:05 am

    Carbon dating is just one tool, and its use it limited to organic samples such as fossils. A lot of the dating is arrived at by cross-comparing the Carbon data with other geological age markers, the fossil’s position in the sediment layers, etc.

    There is also the observations of physicists and cosmologists which make the universe billions of years old, using unchanging physical phenomena.

    NONE of this really conflicts with Judaism or the Bible. The “conflict” is artificial, manufactured and maintained by ultra-secularists and religious fundamentalists – BOTH of whom are rather ignorant of the underlying science (yes, that includes the secular folks – most of them are just parroting the garbled nonsense they’ve picked up from the mass media. They don’t understand the underlying science, and what it does and doesn’t prove.)

    I think a kid can understand the difference between how a scientist describes the physical world through observation and experimentation – and how the Torah and Judaism use history, law, and poetry to convey moral and spiritual truths.

    How about something like:
    “The Torah isn’t a science book – so it doesn’t tell the details. It just tells us that G-d made the world in an orderly way – just like the days of the week have an order. And that’s what the scientists have found.”

    I think a kid can understand that – different, but complementary, facets of reality. Science is great for understanding the material world, Judaism is great for the emotional, moral, and spiritual aspects of reality.

  47. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/7/2005 at 2:20 am

    Dear themiddle,

    Do you want to share these doubts you have;
    as you put it?:

    “It’s the miracles, God’s revealing himself to the Israelites and giving the Torah at Sinai rather than indirectly inspiring a really good writer or two (even if his name was Moses) with which I have some difficulty. I don’t challenge Israelite religion or its permutations”

    Is this what you want to teach? Is this youre idea of being strong minded; so as to be able to deal with the challenges of life? I wouldn’t
    underestimate how easily people pick up and
    learn these doubts, especially younger people.
    I connect doubt with confussion and panic.

  48. themiddle

    6/7/2005 at 2:48 am

    Confusion and panic? What am I panicked about? And let’s say that a young person “picks up” on the doubts I have with respect to the stories in the Torah, why do you think they will panic or be confused? Perhaps they’ll be open-minded and explore the topic from a variety of angles. That’s what I did, and that’s what most people do. You then come to conclusions. If certainty means that you try to come up with debating points by ignoring links to scientists and scientific publications while providing a link to some online discussion in some chat forum, then perhaps certainty is not a good thing to have.

    Ben David, I think your last comment is probably the closest we’ve come to what I will ultimately tell him. I believe that I will discuss the 7 days of creation and their order but will avoid discussing the discrepancies between the Creation story and the Garden of Eden story.

    For those of you who are adults, and are confident in your beliefs, consider the Documentary Hypothesis which posits that a number of authors authored the bible. Having two contradicting stories related to the creation of man makes a lot of sense in this scenario…

  49. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/7/2005 at 4:35 am

    Dear themiddle,

    You ask:

    “Confusion and panic? What am I panicked

    You answered yourself when you started this:

    “But I’m afraid that if I tell him what I believe, I will damage his confidence in the Torah and in God.

    Oh yeah, last week he asked, “Daddy, what

    happens to us if we don’t eat kosher?”

    I’m clearly not smart enough to be a father.”

    Did you not say that?

  50. themiddle

    6/7/2005 at 5:32 am

    Netsach, this is not panic or confusion. This is good fodder for an interesting discussion, allows me to develop my own thinking, is generally fun, can be informative in several ways (in this discussion we have seen Orthodox Jews dismiss science; atheist Jews dismiss the Torah as fairy tales; and learned about the science of Carbon dating and fossil dating), and allows me to make a self-depracating joke about something which I do with great joy – being a father. And fatherhood, like everything else, is a process of learning, not of panic and confusion, but of learning. Thanks for your concern, however.

  51. Conserva-Girl

    6/7/2005 at 5:43 am


    The link I gave answers those questions you’ve posed. Temperature and pressure aren’t the forces we’re concerned with. C-14 content is influenced by many environmental factors, but B-H, scientists who use these methods have ways of qualifying their results. Read the website! You’ll find your answers there.

    BTW, evolution was brought up here a few comments back. Evolutionary genetics isn’t about finding “missing links”. Evolution is a subtle thing. I once interviewed in a lab where they were studing bird genetic diversity. They had found that on neighboring islands in the Pacific, different species of birds differed by only a few miniscule DNA changes. Yet they looked entirely different. If it hadn’t been for DNA comparison, you wouldn’t even know they were related.

    Another example of evolution is the rapid mutation of the AIDS virus. Folks, that’s evolution- it’s not just a theory! It’s a modern example of DNA that adapts itself in order to survive.

    Religion reconciled with science is a gift from God. We think that the age of miracles is over, but what if God performs miracles within the context of the times? Maybe these are our modern miracles but we’re too intent on seeing the splitting of seas to notice them. Albert Einstein once said “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”

  52. Dina

    6/7/2005 at 7:58 am

    By the way, Muffti, by your definition of a theist, Rambam is one. He said that God created nature and gave it the ability to create blah, blah, blah. The Ramban vehemently argued against him on that point (among others :)).

  53. Dan

    6/7/2005 at 9:08 am

    A few questions about Genesis chapter1/2:

    If the Garden of Eden story takes place on Day 6, why would God declare that his creation on Day 6 is “very good.” He created man and he already sinned on his first day! What is good about that?

    And how are the discrepancies between chapters 1 and 2 rectified. A literal reading of chapter 2 implies that God created man (2:7/Day 6?), and then the garden with its trees (2:9/Day 3?) and the animals (2:19/earlier on Day6?).

  54. Jewish Mother

    6/7/2005 at 10:30 am

    Science is great. It is facts. It is “how”. Religion is great. It is truth. It is “why”. The oldest human history anybody knows is indeed about 5 – 6 thousand years ago, which is the “Torah age” of the world. FOR US as humans OUR world is therefore indeed 5 – 6 thousand years old. Our PLANET can be as old as it wants. Science is very interesting six days a week. On the seventh day we close the lab, tape the light switches and read from Scripture.

    Yay team.

    When your six year old asks how the elevator works, you say, you know the engine in Daddy’s car? There is an engine in the basement like that one and it makes the elevator go up and down.

    That is simplified, but it is not a lie. A lie would be “there is a large pink bunny in the basement and he kicks his feet and that makes the elevator go up and down.” The first is like religion, simplified but true. The second is like superstition, nonsense.

    Your seventeen year old asks how the elevator works. You start in on oms and amps and transistors and resistance and generators, and you take out your blue-prints from when you worked at Otis designing elevators. Vastly more complicated – he can handle it now.

    G-d is the father in this story. He is proud of his children’s increasing understanding of his world. But they are challenged not to forget the basic Truth while they are learning all those wonderful facts.

  55. wine guy

    6/7/2005 at 10:52 am

    Joe Shmo read my post again

    There have supposedly been studies showing that the amount of C14 in the atmosphere is increasing. This means that thousands of years ago there was less, therefore things may appear older than they really are, which was not the point I was focusing on

    the point is C14 is not a perfectly reliable tool and even if it was it would not contradict Torah or it’s Divine origens

    Sorry guys I just don’t see any big issues with science There are old Jewsih sources which claim the universe is billions of years old.

    National Geographic did a study showing that the percentage of Scientists who believe in creation, vs. those that don’t are the same as those across all walks of life in the western world. As science progresses we will see more and more that it correlates with Torah and reveals Torah

  56. themiddle

    6/7/2005 at 11:28 am

    Well, this morning I told him that I didn’t know whether there were human beings around in the time of the dinosaurs but that many people don’t view the 7 days of creation as 7 human days, but as 7 days in God’s time, which could be as long as one can imagine. Since the animals were created before man, it could have been millions of years before.

    I then told him that the Garden of Eden story suggests a different timetable. I didn’t attempt to reconcile the differences. We did have a brief discussion about “Adam’s rib.”

  57. wine guy

    6/7/2005 at 11:37 am

    Any body seen any good deals on flights to Gan Eden lately?

  58. Jewish Mother

    6/7/2005 at 11:37 am

    Why does The Middle have to go this alone? All the kids in the school are asking similar questions at home. The professionals at the school have been over this ground and have training, so why aren’t they helping in some way?

  59. Conserva-Girl

    6/7/2005 at 12:37 pm

    TM, just out of curiosity, what type of school is this? MO, Haredi, Conserv, other? I guess the answer would depend on whose theology rules supreme.

  60. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/7/2005 at 1:28 pm

    dear themiddle,

    I aggree with just about all of what you are saying now. What I am really emphasizing is not so much the “what” in terms of the arguments. Many
    of these folks here are doing a fine job with that; as you are as well, no doubt. I am talking about the “how” you are putting things. For example the doubts and the fear you have of expressing youre views. Another emphasis I am making is that these “doubts” and “fears” will leak out one way or another.

  61. Jewish Mother

    6/7/2005 at 2:13 pm

    Netsy is right about that, IMHO.

  62. grandmuffti

    6/7/2005 at 2:17 pm

    A quick word on the religion vs. science issue, in particular on the ‘how’ vs. ‘why’ approach to seeing the dialectic.

    One grand shift between how the ancients and the moderns approach explanation of the world can be summed up by a fight between teleology and efficient causation. Teleology is the study of purpose, or the aims of a type of object. It need not be religious: Aristotle’s studies of physics, matter etc. made little reference to the divine and lots of reference to purpose. Why does the object fall when dropped? Because it wants to return to earth from which it is made. Why does air not to ‘fall’ (well, it sorta does actually)? Because it wants to be up in the sky where it belongs. Why is there motion? Nature abhors vaccuums and particles want to fill them. In religion, why do people get sick? Because the laws want to punish the unjust, or want to promote a great good somewhere else and hurting a person is required to achieve that purpose.

    Modern science didn’t simply give new explanations, it did away with an entire paradigm of how to explain things. It posited mechanisms that were absolutely cold and insensitive to desire or purpose. Things don’t fall because they want to get to the ground. They fall because gravitational forces are greater downward than force pushing upwards. Why do people get sick? A plethora of explanations, none of them requiring positing a being with intentions and desires that he carries out in reliable means.

    Muffti’s point is that the clash between religion and science isn’t merely a clash between to competing explanations: science is an attempt to give a fully predictive account of the universe that specifically does not require any appeal to intentions. Religion, in modern times, is transformed from an attempt to explain the phenomenon in intentional therms to a defense against such a reductionist view that science offers. Thus, when a poster earlier wrote ‘look at the stars’ while a scientific approach sees a mathematical challenge, religious approaches see a theological one.

    Are these approaches strictly speaking incompatible? Well, not logically incompatible but insofar as you think that mechanistic, non-teleological explanations give a FULL account of what you see and so forth, so much the worse for account that require positing teleology.

    That’s what the real fight is about between the religious and the scientific: an approach to how we should think about the world. The march of science has been an ever-growing intrusion on explanations once given by teleology and those that embrace teleology have been left trying to carve out a domain of explanation that science can’t touch. You know where Muffti stands on these things. But lets not kid ourselves into thinking that the conflict is one that will be solved by looking at a case by case basis to see who is giving a better explanation, sceince or religion. Science is winning that one and we all know it. So, like Descartes, start thinking about what the proper domain of religious explanation really is.

    Phew. Sorry about the rant.

  63. Jewish Mother

    6/7/2005 at 2:28 pm

    How nice you bring up Descartes.

    I agree!

    Twas ne’er philosopher bore the toothache calmly.

    The student said to the old Rabbi, “I assert Man is only a bunch of chemicals dissolved in water”. Shall we discuss this? The old Rabbi smiled and said, “Of course. With pleasure. But I am confused. How can I have a discussion with a bunch of chemicals dissolved in water?”

    The student realized he had tied his own shoelaces together.

    They all lived happily ever after, married, and had children.

    No, G-d cannot be deduced by logic. Some people are just more attuned than others. That’s why there are so many mitzvot to perform. They help us, like training wheels. Only the tzaddikim don’t need training wheels.

  64. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/7/2005 at 2:31 pm

    That was an interesting and almost exhaustive rant. And I thought I got long winded… I am not to sure about the “science winning” view. Religious fundamentalism, jewish or not, has a way of going through cycles. I am not trying to sound authoritative, but we seem to be going through an upswing. There a lot of competing views out there beyond just the Science vs. religion one. I don’t know “who” is winning really.

  65. themiddle

    6/7/2005 at 2:45 pm

    I wish I could understand Muffti’s comments.

    Oh wait, did you just say there is no equivalence between science and religion and that comparing the two on any given issue is silly because science attempts to analyze and describe phenomena from an objective POV that has nothing to do with religion’s subjective rules laid down within a value system predicated on faith?

  66. grandmuffti

    6/7/2005 at 2:52 pm

    That’s a lovely way to put things, Jewish Mother. Descartes always has a fond place in my heart: he died partly from having to start his day early in the morning!

    The story is illustrative, but perhaps the student’s shoes weren’t tied quite as tightly as your narrative makes it seem. It is a classic case of considering two things under different descriptions that in this case don’t really compete. Consider a parallel story:

    Scientist says to artist: I assert that your statue is just a lot of rock carved up.

    Artist: why would people by a bunch of rock carved up?

    Obvious answer: because when you carve rock up in some ways, you make a statue and people like statues. Similarly, when sufficiently many molecules in certain arrangements, they are able to do certain things, such as discuss their own arrangements. Final case. Imagine that someone says to Lois Lane that Clarke Kent is in fact Superman. She may well answer:

    Well, that’s impossible because I want to sleep with Superman but I can barely stand Kent’s presence.

    And yet, we well know that Superman and Clarke Kent are the same person. Point is that the Rabbi was a little quick in his response and the student was rather gullible in accepting it. Put technically, desire and belief attributions are insensitive to co-reference and thus frequently do not allow such substitutions in their scope. That’s why the woman in the movie can love her husband, hate the killer of her daughter but not realize that they are the same person. Similarly, we can want to talk to people, not want to talk to a pack of molecules playing out certain biolotgical functions, and not realize that they are the same thing.

  67. grandmuffti

    6/7/2005 at 2:57 pm

    Errr…Middle…that’s not quite what Muffti meant to say. But perhaps that lesson can be extracted. Muffti meant to say that the proper way that religion and science should argue is over which style of explanation is better. Or, perhaps to put the challenge from science more precisely: given that we don’t need telic explanations to explain the things we want to explain, why should we believe in telic explanations (i.e. ones that involve a creator with intentions)? What motivates us if there are simpler explanations that don’t require such reference? Muffti doesn’t know the answer to this and is inclined to declare religion the big loser in this dispute. But you already knew that.

  68. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/7/2005 at 3:02 pm

    When Muffti is saying that “religion is the big loser;” Is that Muffti’s own worldview or the general state of existence or current times in this world?

  69. grandmuffti

    6/7/2005 at 3:10 pm

    NSN, Muffti did say ‘…is inclinjed to declare…’ That’s just Muffti’s take on things, but it’s an educated take. It explains why everytime we explain a phenomenon in a way inconsistent with a literal reading of the Torah we clamour to reinterpret it as a metaphor/allegory. It explains why Joe Schmo, who is certainly a bright, learned fellow is reduced to lame scepticism with respect to scientific methods. Or why creationists are reduced to seeing God as a massive trickster, creating the world in such a way as to fool scientists and us into thinking its older than it really is. It’s why attacks on evolution are absolutely constant: because it is one of the more precious domain where people thought they could locate teleology and instead found a science based on random distribution of mutation-environment compatibility.

    But maybe Muffti is wrong. He’s more committed to finding out what is true than justifying any particular paradigm. But its hard to see where teleology is still making a difference in explanation.

  70. Jewish Mother

    6/7/2005 at 3:12 pm

    Very cool, GM. Pascal’s thinking reed is great too. Man can discuss the molecules of which he is made, but molecules cannot discuss the man which they comprise.

    Man is a bunch of dissolved chemicals. But he is not JUST a bunch of dissolved chemicals. He is a thinking pail of chemicals.

    WHY will always follow you home.

  71. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/7/2005 at 3:15 pm

    The Mufti is using a term not in my lexicon. What is Teleology?

  72. Jewish Mother

    6/7/2005 at 3:15 pm

    I do not mind that G-d used, and continues to use, the forces of evolution to sculpt the biosphere. It is fine with me. I do not quarrel with His methods. I do not want my money back. My Shabbos is completely traditional and I love science.

  73. grandmuffti

    6/7/2005 at 3:28 pm

    Teleology is roughly speaking the study of telos or purpose. The idea, early on, was to explain what a thing either did or should do in terms of what it was designed to do/what it’s purpose was. Thus, Aristotle makes claims about why arrows fly: when you put force on one (by shooting it) it goes upwards. Since nature wants there to be no vacuums, particles rush behind the arrow to fill the empty space. However, the arrow ‘wants’ to get back to earth, since it is made of earth and likes being with earth. So it tries to go down while the particles push it up. Eventually this results in the arrow getting its way and returning to the ground, fulfilling its purpose of getting back to the earth.

    It sounds sort of stupid to modern ears, but the paradigm is clear, and not unreasonable: things do what they do in the same way that humans do: they want certain things because of their purposes, and they act where possible to achieve those purposes. On a cosmological scale, God has certain desires and beliefs and makes the universe go as you’d expect. That’s the telic explanation of why the Jews survive tragedies: coz God wants them too. Its also the type of explanation for why the Jews suffer tragedies: coz God gets angry and wants them punished.

    We are naturally disposed to think about purposes: we wonder what OUR purpose is. We wonder why certain things happen to us. We claim that everything happens ‘for a reason…’, where we don’t just mean because there was a series of blind physical causes. We say that someone is a bashert, or that person who is your goal to meet and live perfectly with since you were basically designed for full compatibility. etc. etc.

    Non-telic explanations are the kinds scientists these days strive for: rocks fall because they are subject to impersonal forces. Your bashert, if there is one, is made for you only in the most metaphorical of senses: what really happens is that you have a series of complex biologies that result in compatibilities nature herself is entirely indifferent to (which nicely explains why if there are really basherts around, very few people ever manage to meet theirs!) Bad things happen without reason, just because as time goes on bad things are likely to happen. Humans have no purpose if that means that we were designed in a particular way to do some specified task by some benevolent/malevolent creator.

  74. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/7/2005 at 3:56 pm

    The Muffti made a very clear and exhaustive defintion of the word and concept of Teleology.
    I have a new tool to use in expressing myself. Much abliged.

  75. grandmuffti

    6/7/2005 at 4:07 pm

    Muffti should say that its not as though teleological explanations are never used these days be scientists: but it is generally assumed as part of the paradigm that they are reducible to non-telic explanations. (There are cases where it is obviously true: hammers are good for hammering nails into a wall because we designed them that way. The actual ability to do it, however, is always thought to bottom out in the stuff the hammer is made of and the laws of nature regarding transfer of energy etc.)

    For more info on teleology see: here.
    Muffti should note that teleology is a very difficult concept to apply: one of his professors and a friends sat down for days writing a paper about whether or not teleology as an explanatory system was even coherent and tries to sketch out what a set of teleological laws that were fully explanatory would look like. It was no easy task.

  76. Jewish Mother

    6/7/2005 at 4:21 pm

    Fatherhood seems to be fun!!

  77. Joe Schmo

    6/7/2005 at 4:25 pm

    First Ill address Dan then Wine Guy and conserva-girl and then Mufti,

    You are the only one to ask a direct question.

    The style of the Torah is to talk in a logical fashion. Unless it specifically says “A came before B” you can’t assume that. In this case “2:8 And the LORD God planted a garden ” means He had planted ie before. The point is that the garden was made for man. So logically what it is sayibng is that G-d created man and he had (previously) created the garden for man to place him in it.

    For example take a look at a few verses later it says “19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto the man to see what he would call them; and …”–but wait! You can ask didn’t G-d create the animals first?

    Of course but you misunderstand the logical point! It is explaining how it came to be that Eve was created. It was after Adam was naming all the animals and they all had mates but he didn’t have one…ie “God HAD (before) created the animals and he brought them to Adam and as a result Adam felt bad and G-d created Eve.”

    Here Dan let me give you a clear example:

    “2,8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. 2,9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 2,10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became four heads. 2,11 The name of the first is Pishon; that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; ”

    — in verse 8 G-d puts man in the garden. In verse 10 it says that the river went out of Eden flowed and divided into four rivers. Would you think that the river was there and divided only after man was in the garden?!

    Of course not! Its not telling you order – its just explaining the layout and the significance of the garden. I can show you many many examples of this.

    wine guy and conservagirl,
    Are you telling me that pressure and temperature don’t affect the decay rate of elements?! I find that extremelly difficult to accept. So far as I know every chemical reaction is affected by them.

    The only question is how much do they affect these dating schemes. I would hope that the scientists would have tested the decay rates of carbon and other substances under varying pressures and temperatures otherwise they would have shirked their responsibility.

    Mufti, I havent the foggiest idea of what you are talking about.
    I understand the contradiction of ‘democracy’ and religion.’ I undestand the danger of the confused ones who don’t know what they think.

    But Judaism is is exactly like science. We are interested in the truth. We also want to know why and how gravity effects things… The question you have to ask is what causes the force of gravity? How could it be that the laws gravity affects the the whole world everywhere? Shouldn’t it be that there exist places that are not subject to the constant laws of nature?

    In Judaism we are actually obligated to study science. Only through studying it will we come to love and fear G-d when we behold the awesome creation.

  78. Joe Schmo

    6/7/2005 at 4:37 pm

    Boy mufti you really think aristotle is a child. Give me a break. when Aristotle said that the arrow ‘wants’ to do something it is the same as if I am explaining lightening and say that it ‘seeks’ and ‘wants’ to get to the ground in the shortest distance.

    Do I mean that it has a mind?! NO.

    What I mean is that that it is its nature to want to go that route – that’s the way G-d made it.
    Did it have to be that way? Could it have been imbued with a different nature? Absolutely.

    But this is the way that G-d decided its nature should be when He created the world.

  79. grandmuffti

    6/7/2005 at 4:44 pm

    Schmo, Muffti agrees that we are interested in truth. His point was that Judaism (and most religions) posit a certain type of explanation, one that relies on purposes, designs and plans. Science tends to present non-telic explanations: impersonal mechanisms and forces sufficient to account for the phenomenon that we see and make predictions about what we should expect to see given a specification of antecedent conditions.

    In such a system of explanation, questions like ‘what causes the force of gravity’ either don’t make sense (well, that’s quick: gravity is actually a sticking point for resolving relativity and quantum mechanics) or have their answer in a posited force which is more fundamental. It’s just as senseless as asking what caused God to be like he is for the theist: God is the uncaused causer and so you can’t explain why he is like that by a more fundamental force.

    To be honest, reading the rest of what you wrote, Muffti doesn’t have the foggiest idea of what you are talking about:

    How could it be that the laws gravity affects the the whole world everywhere? Shouldn’t it be that there exist places that are not subject to the constant laws of nature?

    Huh? That’s about as senseless as asking why God’s power is universal, rather than limited in certain quadrants of the universe (unless, of course, gravity reduces to some further set of forces, in which case the explanation will be if those forces are ominpresent, so is gravity. If not, then gravity isn’t).

    But Muffti is pretty sure he doesn’t know what you are talking about. The main point was this: science offers explanation for things that in the Torah, religious texts, are explained telicly: by God’s will or by the purposes god endowed man with. Science offers explanation that are non-telic and don’t require an reference to a creator. Thus, they aren’t logically inconsistent but it suggests the question why you’d ever believe in an object not required for explanations. But that’s just part of the shift in paradigm from explaining things by reference to their puposes/their creator’s purposes to explaining things by the primitive natural impersonal forces that govern them.

  80. grandmuffti

    6/7/2005 at 4:49 pm

    Schmo, while Muffti agrees that Aristotle didnt’ literally mean that arrows have minds, it is clear that he expected them to act as if they did. Their purpose, for him, is to get back to the place they belong and they act exactly as you would expect someone to do so if they believed they belonged in a certain location L and were trying to get their. This of course has to be refined: arrows on tables don’t leap off the tables 🙂 But the point is that they act as though they are attempting to unfold a purpose that they are primitively compelled by nature to live out. Anyhow, the point remains: its explanations like ‘God wanted it to be that way and so made it act thusly’ that is in dispute by modern science. That entire way of thinking, that we explain what is by reference to something’s purpose is, at the fundamental level, eschewed.

  81. wine guy

    6/7/2005 at 4:53 pm


    I’m not dissagreeing with you I did not address the relation of pressure and tempature to radioactive decay. I’m sure it is very likely that these do have an affect on decay rates. I was talking about a different issue

  82. Joe Schmo

    6/7/2005 at 5:04 pm

    That is the point.
    The fact that the laws of nature are constant everywhere indicates that there is a force causing it to be that way everywhere. Nothing can happen without a cause. Nothing can happen by itself. Now that I see that there are laws of nature that are constant everywhere and that all work together I immediately realize that there is a singular force everywhere that is caussing it to be.

  83. Jewish Mother

    6/7/2005 at 5:10 pm

    Good, let it be eschewed.

    Science is a trade.

    A scientist becomes an ordinary believing Jew when he prays just like member of any other trade, such as a garage mechanic. Indeed he is just a very advanced mechanic who can build lasers and remove tumors.

    To explain is not to explain away.

    And “why” always follows you home.

    Judaism is EXACTLY where the abstract meets the material. Yay team.

  84. grandmuffti

    6/7/2005 at 5:12 pm

    Schmo, that line of argument is as ridiculous as this one:

    Something must have created God. His power is constant everywhere. That indicates that there must be some force that is causing it to be that way everywhere. Nothing can happen by itself/without a cause. Therefore God has a cause.

    Why don’t theists ever admit that: there is an uncaused causer (God) and the principle everything has a cause are in direct tension with eachother, especially when theyinsist that the cause must be distinct from the effect?

  85. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/7/2005 at 5:15 pm

    Does the Muffti have a problem with “Something from nothing” – “yash Meyin” being only something Hashem could do?

  86. Joe Schmo

    6/7/2005 at 5:33 pm

    Mufti the point is that I know that there must be something outside the laws of nature that is the causer. We can only understand what is within our world.

    I can know that for everything within our world of nature there must be a cause.

    You are unwilling to say that this world that we see has a cause even though everywhere even across distances things work together. A magnet in place A can effect things in place B even miles away – even a whole world away. What you are trying to say is impossible.

    I realize that there must be a causer and that causer cannot be not part of this world.

    Does a deaf man who has never heard understand music? There is no inkling because it is not in his world. I recognize that fact.

    I can know with absolute certainty that there is a causer out of my world even though I don’t understand its exact nature.

    You see your question only works if we are dealing with things we can understand. It is in fact your question that makes me realize that this causer is completely above this world.

  87. Conserva-Girl

    6/7/2005 at 6:01 pm

    Joe, while it would seem that heat and pressure would accelerate nuclear decay, the theory seems to not hold up. Several scientists claim to have been able to measure a slight change, but their conclusions didn’t hold up to peer review and have been pushed aside. Let me put it this way: if it were a known phenomenon, we’d be figuring out how to harness it to nullify nuclear weapons and spent fuel.

    I have another site for you: evolutionhappe....
    Please read the link or I’ll be forced to post more Einstein quotations.

  88. Joe Schmo

    6/7/2005 at 6:43 pm

    I went through the link. What I don’t like is the broad statements without specifics.

    Most roubling to me is #14 and its response.

    The site seems to be admitting that a rock from a volcano that was sent to a lab got a dating of millions of yeas old. The answer they give is that there are ways of ‘tricking’ radiometric dating. In the end the group sent it to a lab they didn’t test it themselves what trick?

    I understand that its from a volcano where its burning hot and under a pressure-cooker pressure.

    I also saw other times where they have published data in journals where the dating methods have been ‘fooled’ a number of times. (I linked to this before.)
    Some of these seem to be from the “Antarctic Journal” and “Science.” I assume that they are reputable.

    These are the things that make me uncomfortable about the dating schemes.

  89. Conserva-Girl

    6/7/2005 at 8:07 pm

    Joe, Yes, yes, yes- you’re right that dating methods have been fooled. Any scientist worth his or her radiation badge will tell you that.

    Volcanic eruptions, nuclear explosions and limestone-rich environments are a few of the conditions which will muck up data, but those things can be explained. Obviously, there are certain cases in which carbon dating won’t work! But there are many, many other cases where it is quite valuable. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater! You’re getting your information from a source that seeks to re-ask questions that have already been answered in order to establish doubt in vulnerable minds. It’s kind of like getting your info about Judaism from a Jews for Jesus website.

    I’m sorry to bore everyone with a discussion of radiocarbon dating. But I think this is a prime example of why we need to be doing a better job of teaching science in our Jewish schools. Science is not a threat! SO WHAT (oh no- now I’m yelling).. if the universe is billions and billions of years old. And so what if dinosaurs lived millions of years ago and humans evolved from…. C’mon, life goes on no matter how it started!

  90. Joe Schmo

    6/7/2005 at 9:27 pm

    Im not throwing anything out with the bathwater.

    For example they use carbon dating to date artifacts found in the temple mount area and the dead-sea scrolls. But there we know the general conditions of the world which is nothing out of the ordinary.

    All Im saying is that if you are saying that volcanic eruptions and other events muck up the data- then how can you use the dating to date the world when we know that the world has gone through things of that nature. In particular I point to the flood in the days of Noah. There the waters were hot coming not only from the rain but from the hot underground springs. The waters covered the mountains by 15 cubits which produces tremendous pressure. We know that all animals on the land were wiped out.

    So I am not tossing out the concept of dating; Im just wondering about its application and assumptions that are being made.

  91. Conserva-Girl

    6/7/2005 at 10:04 pm

    Actually, it’s been speculated that the flood leached radioactive materials out of submerged minerals, causing radiation levels to be misleading. At least that’s what it says on the site you sent me to.

    Joe, I appreciate your candor and your arguments, but I have trouble seeing the flood as an actual event that occurred, just like I have trouble with the story of creation happening in 7 neat 24-hour segments.

    I feel that scientific evidence can very happily co-exist with Torah. TM asked how to teach this to a young child. How do we reconcile allegory with divine revelation, how do we use the miracle of our intellect to discover the secrets of our world (cue music swell), and how do we focus our discoveries toward kiddush Hashem?

  92. alexbmn

    6/8/2005 at 12:50 am

    ok I have a question thats more Aastronomy related for Conserva-Girl.I was thinking about your line that “it took light froom the stars millions of years to reach us” and I was thinking which of the stars that are visible to the naked eye are million of light years away.(or at least 5756 light years away) I couldnt think of one,but thats more due to my ignorance.(Of course the galaxies seen by Hubble are even further)but they arent visible to the naked eye,right?

  93. Me

    6/8/2005 at 1:36 am

    Hey Joe:

    Sorry I haven’t yet replied to your previous post (re illogical things in the Tanach and ancient civs dated back past 6000 years) – just briefly the Naqadda 1 period (pre dynastic egypt) is dated to at least 4000 BC. Re illogical things – have a look at William Dever’s books, interesting guy who converted to Judaism after researching the Bible from an archaeological perspective.

    Re carbon dating: no reputable archaeologist uses carbon dating as a dating method by itself. It is ALWAYS used in conjunction with other dating data from relative dating methods etc. Just so you know.

  94. themiddle

    6/8/2005 at 1:58 am

    Thanks, Me.

  95. Conserva-Girl

    6/8/2005 at 5:11 am

    Alex, of course you’re right. The sun is way less than one light year away and many stars we easily see are under 20 light years away. The conversation I referred to was about how un-countable the stars were and how some were so far away that they couldn’t be seen (the counselor thought that perhaps she was seeing all of them at that moment).

  96. Jewish Mother

    6/8/2005 at 9:27 am

    “Tell me what you believe in. I have enough doubts of my own.”

    Some group a few years ago declared there could not be any G-d, because they had combed the sands of the Middle East looking for His dropped shirt buttons, and did not find any. The next thing is to start fussing about His shirt size. This gets silly.

    To me the science department is in a different wing of the same building as the religion department, but it is several corridors and elevators away.

    Watch out for reductionism.

    “Come out on the balcony, honey, the earth’s rotation is creating the illusion of the sun going down and the light refractions are very pretty”. Nobody ever said that, or ever will.

    We know science, but we do not live science. That’s why it is not a contradiction to do science for six days a week, and pray on the seventh.

  97. Joe Schmo

    6/8/2005 at 10:51 am

    Conservagirl and me,

    you said: “but I have trouble seeing the flood as an actual event that occurred, just like I have trouble with the story of creation happening in 7 neat 24-hour segments. ”

    –That means that all your arguments are circular.

    You start with the assumption that the flood never happened then based on that you do dating and ‘prove’ that the world is millions or billions of years old.

    But supposedly you are trying to prove that world is not as we are told by our fathers about 5765 years old and wiped out at some point by a great flood!

    That is circular logic!

    The Naqadda is ‘dated’ but that is the whole point of our discussions here. How solid is the dating and if there are assumptions (such as the flood never happened) that are being made which cause a cirlular argument!
    Note that there is no ‘historical’ records with a date written by a person – or in connection to events that happened more than 5765 years ago.

    re illogical things-now you are sending me to somebody’s book. I don’t have that book. Can’t you give me an example? Why would you quote facts if you don’t know and understand them yourself?

    I have studied the texts in their original hebrew. I feel comfortable saying that there are no illogical parts at all.

  98. alexbmn

    6/8/2005 at 12:18 pm

    ok after reading solong an argument I have to ask,do real Mufftis always refer to themselves in the third person?

  99. grandmuffti

    6/8/2005 at 1:08 pm

    Probably not, alexbmn. that’s what makes this Muffti so special.

    Schmo, you said, (following the latest in scientific thought of the 1300s):

    I can know that for everything within our world of nature there must be a cause.

    You are unwilling to say that this world that we see has a cause even though everywhere even across distances things work together. A magnet in place A can effect things in place B even miles away – even a whole world away. What you are trying to say is impossible.

    Muffti isn’t unwilling to say that this world has a cause. He’s just not willing to be as certain as you are that the chain of causation leads back to a particular entity or event. In any case, let’s look carefully at your argument:
    1) Everything has a cause.
    This may be true with out it being true that there is A CAUSE that everything has. That transition is as bad as:
    1′) Every boy loves a girl -> There is a girl every boy loves.
    In other words, the fact that everything has some cause or other shows absolutely nothing about there being one particular cause it can be all traced back to.

    For what it’s worth, Muffti has never really been clear on why everyone is so certain of (1). Why think that everything has a cause? Quantum Mechanics, as Russell observed long ago has state descriptions and no notion of causal relations stringing them together, which led him to suggest that causation as a concept is just empty and should be ditched for probabilistic relations between states.

    Notice, it is consistent with (1) that the chain of causation goes back forever (and, if causes can be instantaneous or arbitarirly short, this doesn’t entail that the universe extend backwards infinitely in time either.)

    The real worry with argument like yours is to try to figure out what the hell this means:

    I realize that there must be a causer and that causer cannot be not part of this world.

    So, what you believe is that there is a causer, he isn’t part of the world, but his effects can be felt in the world. Whatever the hell that is supposed to mean is absolutely beyond Muffti.

  100. themiddle

    6/8/2005 at 1:43 pm

    Muffti, what he means is beyond you because you weren’t paying attention in Hebrew school. Not to worry, I have the same problem.

  101. grandmuffti

    6/8/2005 at 1:50 pm

    Muffti paid attention back then. He still doesn’t understand what it means. Or why anyone would believe such a thing rather than just express some doubt about the principle that everything has a singular, particular cause.

  102. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/8/2005 at 1:57 pm

    So it seems like the Muffti doesn’t go along with Yesh Meyin?

  103. grandmuffti

    6/8/2005 at 2:15 pm

    Mufft has a problem with ‘yesh meyin’ in general. It isn’t very clear to him that there are two types of states, a state of sheer nothingness and a state of existence. The first doesn’t make any sense, as far as Muffti can tell. If you destroyed everything in the universe at the same time (including space and time), there wouldn’t be something left over, Nothingness. Similarly, there is no state before there was stuff, the timeless, spaceless nothing state. Muffti is perfectly willing to be shown wrong by this but he thinks its just an illusion that comes about through mistaking phrases like ‘if everything didn’t exist, there would be nothing’ (which is true: it’s not the case that anything would exist) with the far less comprehensible: ‘if nothing existed, there would be a state, the state of nothingness’.

    However, the points here are delicate. If there indeed is a state, nothingness, and somehow that state could make a transition into a state of their being things,Muffti would agree that only a diety could do that. But he thinks the notion of a state of nothingness is just a confusion.

  104. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/8/2005 at 2:29 pm

    The muffti made clear his issues with Yesh Meyin. Does the Muffti feel that Elokay Yisrael is just another “deity?”

  105. grandmuffti

    6/8/2005 at 2:35 pm

    Muffti feels that ‘Elokya Yisrael’ is a non-referring term.

  106. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/8/2005 at 2:41 pm

    For the Muffti I say that Elokay Yisroel means the G-d of Israel. I am using formal lexicon.

  107. grandmuffti

    6/8/2005 at 2:48 pm


  108. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/8/2005 at 2:49 pm

    When the muffti says only a diety. I could easily construe that “a” could mean one amongst many. If you used the term one and only… I would think something else, but you didn’t

  109. Joe Schmo

    6/8/2005 at 3:01 pm

    quote: “This may be true with out it being true that there is A CAUSE that everything has. That transition is as bad as:
    1′) Every boy loves a girl -> There is a girl every boy loves.”
    –You didn’t understand me. I don’t remember making any such inference.

    The fact that a magnet here can effect something across the globe; the fact that you can communicate across the world even through space. The fact that the laws of nature are tied together and work in harmony across all distances shows that the cause must be in both places simultaneously. Similarly the fact that the heart beats at a constant pace whether or not the person is living anywhere in the universe, the fact that the pull of gravity is constant and works harmoniously everywhere makes it clear that there is one singular cause keeping everything running.

    quote: “Why think that everything has a cause? Quantum Mechanics, as Russell observed long ago has state descriptions and no notion of causal relations stringing them together, which led him to suggest that causation as a concept is just empty and should be ditched for probabilistic relations between states. ”
    –I don’t know what Russell is saying neither do I know who he is.
    quote: “So, what you believe is that there is a causer, he isn’t part of the world, but his effects can be felt in the world. Whatever the hell that is supposed to mean is absolutely beyond Muffti. ”
    –One summer I was reading Descartes for fun. I remember one thing that he said which I will paraphrase by memory:
    Descartes: “I don’t want to go into all the arguments to refute the atheist but suffice it to say that they all base their logic on a faulty premise. they start assuming that only what they can see with their eyes or hear with their ears exists.”
    It was somethng like that that he said.
    Im trying to explain to you Mufti you can often know of somethings existence by seeing the effects without understanding the nature of what is causing the effect. That is the way of science. In the beginning people noticed the pulling effects of magnets. They didn’t understand it. By seeing the effects over and over they knew that there was a force of magnetism although they didn’t understand why it works. When people come up with all the theories of how atoms look – they are guessing from the effects that they observe the atoms making. They know that something is causing these effects and they try to build a model of an atom that would show how the atom would cause those effects that are observed. Nobody can actually see atoms – all those pictures of flying electrons are just showing pictorially what they are guessing is happening in the atom. When they build models they don’t say that this model is complete – certain properties of the model they would include other things that they don’t grasp they leave as unknown.
    So too here. I see the effects and I know that there is a cause – I’m just like the scientists. I try to build a model of the nature of the cause. My model is incomplete but I know certain things.
    a. The cause must be a singular cause
    b. The cause cannot be physical or be affected by any of the laws of nature. This is because the laws of nature, as I mentioned above, are the effects that proved to me that there is a cause.
    Other attributes of the cause I leave as unknown.
    Now the fact that some of the properties are unknown does not mean that it doesn’t exist. That is why I gave the example of the deaf man who could not comprehend music – but that doesn’t mean music doesn’t exist.
    Descarte understood this and he correctly pinpointed the mistake of the atheist.

  110. grandmuffti

    6/8/2005 at 3:15 pm

    Muffti never said anything about only believing what he can see. Nor did he say that you can’t infer things about a cause based on its effects. What he *did* say was that there is no reason to think that there is a single cause. Thus, there is no reason to think that the laws of nature are effects of anything. The fact that they work harmoniously together is, in a sense, guaranteed:you couldn’t have had contradictory sets of laws.

    Anyhow, this dispute is just mimicking a classical dispute: why think that everything bottoms out in one particular cause?

  111. Me

    6/8/2005 at 8:04 pm

    TheMiddle: Dever inspired my Masters thesis on the same topic.

    Joe Schmo: Re dating (Naqqada period etc): “scientific” methods such as carbon dating are not the only methods used to date this period, as they are often incorrect because the sample can be tainted by the soil, environment etc.
    Mediterranean archaeology, in my experience, relies heavily on a dating method known as “relative dating” in which stratigraphy (the idea that in a pile of dirt, the things at the bottom were placed there before the things at the top), history (as in, the recorded/written word), known geological etc events (such as earthquakes), other known events (such as the burning and razing to the ground of a particular citadel), demographical studies using aerial evidence of settlement patterns and a few other things are used to place an artifact found a particular level in the soil into a “time period”, which can be specific as a particular year, decade, century or millennia.
    When an archaeologist says that a particular piece of pottery dates to the Naqadda I period, that is because:
    a)the pottery is distinctive enough that the archaeologist, through studying hundreds of thousands of pieces of pottery in the area, knows which time period the pottery is from, because pottery making methods and techniques have developed in a specific way over the centuries and are unique in certain places because of environment, the availability of the ingredients, knowledge of firing methods and the advancement of the people in firing techniques, and lack or presence of trade in the area.
    b) the archaeologist then looks at the stratigraphy of the site the piece of pottery was taken from (these things are very particularly documented by archaeologist in site surveys) and confirms or denies that the piece of pottery was from the time period he/she assessed it to.
    c) it is analysed for all the other dating techniques
    d) it is confirmed as having come from that particular time period.

    My expertise is not in Naqaddian history and archaeology but in Israelite archaeology.

    As an example of the method above, in my last excavation at Hazor I examined a specific piece of pottery (an oil lamp) which was found at a particular layer and area of the site.
    Strangely, the levels below this oil lamp contained a lot of pottery that was of a much more advanced type – better formed, better clay and firing methods, more sturdy, more elaborate styles and patterns etc. The oil lamp was clumsily formed, was made of rough clay, had firing cracks and fissures, and crumbled easily.
    Logic would say that the poorer the piece of pottery, the earlier in time the maker ie the person who had made the pottery piece was not as knowledgeable as the people who made the more sophisticated pieces.

    Looking at relative dating methods, it was determined that the “bad” pottery came from the 12th century BC. How is this dating possible?

    1) There was a burn layer immediately under the layer that contained the first of the “bad” pottery. This was dated according to stratigraphy and carbon dating to the 13th century BC, which is the exact time that Joshua’s “army” destroyed Hazor, the “Head of all the Kingdoms”, by razing it to the ground.

    2) The pottery underneath the burn layer is sophisticated Canaanite pottery, with consecutive layers showing the development of their potting and firing methods.

    The “bad” pottery is so clumsy, flimsy etc because it was made by the first Israelites to settle at Hazor. Having been slaves for hundreds of years, and having wandered the desert after that, they had no experience in making their own pottery.

    This example was given to me by Prof. Amnon Ben Tor of Hebrew U. He is also one of the world-renowned authorities on archaeology in Israel, having written the textbook on the subject….

  112. Me

    6/8/2005 at 8:09 pm

    Also to Joe, re the illogical things in Tanach.

    You know the example of how the number of years the Israelites spent in Egypt varies in a couple of places (I’m sorry, I just can’t be bothered to get the specific references).

    Commentators such as Rashi explain why this is so. I’m not doubting them. All I’m saying is that to someone who reads the Torah as an ancient text rather than as religious instruction (apikorsus, huh?) it’s a little confusing.
    I’ll dig up my thesis for the references….

  113. themiddle

    6/8/2005 at 8:16 pm

    Hey Me, is Ben Tor the guy who threw Finkelstein’s theories for a loop because he was able to date everything earlier?

  114. Joe Schmo

    6/8/2005 at 10:40 pm

    First to Me then to Mufti,

    The way you explained relative dating makes sense. But then it assumes that we have references of known historical events. Well you mentioned that this method dated some period called “naqadda” to at leat 4000 years BC. That is over 6000 years ago. I don’t know of any known historical events to use as a reference that long ago. I in fact don’t think there was any history that long ago.

    Do you know of any historical events in order to use this method that long ago?

    you wrote: “Muffti never said anything about only believing what he can see. Nor did he say that you can’t infer things about a cause based on its effects. What he *did* say was that there is no reason to think that there is a single cause. Thus, there is no reason to think that the laws of nature are effects of anything. The fact that they work harmoniously together is, in a sense, guaranteed:you couldn’t have had contradictory sets of laws.”

    –what do you mean guaranteed?! There should have been chaos if anything. Nothing should work. In fact the word ‘law’ of nature right away implies a constant fact so much so that we can declare it a ‘law.’ There should be no laws.

    What type of logic is that to say that it is ‘guaranteed’ because otherwise the laws wouldn’t work harmoniously and be in contradiction to each other?

    quote: “Anyhow, this dispute is just mimicking a classical dispute: why think that everything bottoms out in one particular cause?”

    –because the harmony and omnipresent nature(being everywhere simultaneously) of all the laws clearly show a coordinating omnipresent force.

    It really is that simple.

  115. Me

    6/9/2005 at 12:40 am

    Themiddle: not sure, but I do know that he doesn’t like Finkelstein much. Or rather, he doesn’t set much store by his theories.

    Joe Schmo: I’ll look into it. Like I said, Naqadda isn’t my thing really – but my bro is learning at the moment at Uni, I’ll get him to check it out.

  116. Nathan

    6/9/2005 at 1:00 am

    “the conversation I referred to was about how un-countable the stars were…”

    Perhaps Conservagirl might consider spending a bit less time looking at her old college bio books a bit more time davening and learning psalms? The she would know the that the stars are far from uncountable: “He counts and numbers the stars, to all of them he assigns names” (Psalm 147).

    OK, now that I’m done teasing the spouse, let’s get into the heart of the matter. At some basic level, a religious Jew has either a more literal or a more allegorical basis to their belief system. Ours is more allegorical, therefore, while we respect the scholarship and wisdom of the great rabbis over time, we simply don’t take their more literal approach to understanding Torah “truths”. We recognize that information from any source, scientific or religious, is coming from humans, with all of our limitations and faults.

    When we want to understand history, we go to historians; we see that the rabbinic version of history is sometimes “colored” by the politics of their time and by a desire to try and fit events into a certain religious belief system. When our family studied Megillath Ruth, we helped the kids understand the story on many levels; it may be literally true or a compilation of stories, but it is likely also a political polemic written to support David’s kingship and encourage staying the Jewish course, and it of course establishes important support for the concept of Gerim. When I discuss Ruth with more literal friends, I simply ask: do you really believe that a father would name his sons “illness” and “destruction”? In any case, our older daughter will lein her part at shul, God willing, this Shavuoth, just as she has in pervious years, and the legacy will be continued, Barukh haShem.

    When we want to understand medicine, we go to doctors; we don’t worry that the state of medical knowledge at the time of the Gemara was so poor that they honestly believed that eating fish and meat together was unhealthy. We know it’s time to move on in that area of kashruth understanding. It doesn’t mean we’re free and clear to toss the rest of keeping kosher, at least as long as all (unflavored) American beer is kosher with supervision.

    I comfortable with my belief that we may never know how much of Torah was divinely written and/or inspired, because our friend R. Ezra could only do so much with the wreckage of the scrolls. I know all of the arguments put forth by Torah literalists that want/need to believe that Ezra successfully reconstructed the text; it’s simply all to clear to me that his – or someone’s – redaction is all over that text. That doesn’t – God forbid – disprove a notion of divine authorship at some level; to believe so would be heresy, and I’m no heretic. I see much chutzpah in scientists that believe in their work as a religion unto itself. I knew most of this biblical information before my interest in conversion, and it hasn’t stopped me; in fact, it made it all the more clear to me that I didn’t have to surrender all of my secular knowledge to be a “real” religious Jew.

    What happens when you eat non-kosher food? If ask the rabbi that lectured the women at an ultra-orthodox conference my wife attended (a story in itself), it can and has caused mental retardation. Perhaps that explains our family’s issues, since we spent years eating non-kosher food before our growing interest in tradition and religious observance lead us in other directions.

    More seriously, the honest answer I give my Jewish kids is: nothing much happens when you eat non-kosher, and you know it from experience. And I know you want to go back to the Clam Castle for the fried clams, really I do, because you bug me about it once a week during the summer. But that’s not the point – the point is, keeping kosher is an awesome and powerful way to make a connection to the Jewish people throughout history – a connection to your own family going back more generations that we can count. We link the past with the present and help keep the Jewish people together by doing these and other mitzvot that establish a unique identity. Actually, I say “mitswoth” – just to drive my Chabad/Ashkenazi-educated oldest daughter into a frenzy. I’m such an evil father sometimes; more time doing tshuva on Yom Kippur for me, I guess, but it’s worth it. I can think about dinosaurs to pass the time.

  117. themiddle

    6/9/2005 at 12:32 pm

    Good post Nathan, thanks.

  118. grandmuffti

    6/9/2005 at 1:02 pm


    This argument never gets anywhere. The point about guaranteed is an old one: you see a certain harmony, but if there hadn’t been such a harmony, you wouldn’t be around to see it. In any case, you are making VERY complex judgements about probabilities: why should I expect to see chaos rather than harmony? And why do two magnets attracting eachother through space count as ‘harmony’ anyways? What’s ‘harmonius’ about that? Imagine a world where attraction laws were exactly the opposite; what would be inharmonius about that?

    In any case, Muffti thinks your evidence is disengenous: answer this. Say we found a region of the universe where the ‘laws’ were violated. i.e. a region of the universe where the gravitational constant was different, where the laws of magnetism didn’t hold and where light didn’t suffer the effects of gravity. Would you then admit there was no God because the supposed Harmony you are using to deduce that there is a God is missing? If not, how can the presence of harmony be evidence while the lack of harmony wouldn’t be?

  119. Joe Schmo

    6/9/2005 at 2:51 pm


    “why should I expect to see chaos rather than harmony? And why do two magnets attracting eachother through space count as ‘harmony’ anyways?”
    –You should not expect to see anything without these laws. Even phsical object rely on laws that casue molecules to bind together.
    –How does magnet A ‘know’ about magnet B’s existance on the other side of the world in order for it to be attracted. The ‘harmony’ is this connection between the two although nowhere near each other.

    –If the laws were different in another region of the universe then I couldn’t prove by this that there is only a singular force. I could only prove that there were at most two forces each one having dominion over its region. There might be one force but this specific argument that I’m using would not be enough to prove it.

  120. Jewish Mother

    6/9/2005 at 2:52 pm

    Is this a JEW, (Grandmuffti), trying to convince a CONVERT to Judaism that there is no G-d??

    (I just wandered in. Maybe I should wander out.)

    In case anybody cares, Spinoza is drivel. Maybe that will help.

    Where is a Chabadnik when you need one.

  121. grandmuffti

    6/9/2005 at 3:17 pm

    Schmo, magnet a ‘knows’ about b because it is affected by a force. what is so mysterious or harmonious about that? Muffti now really has not clue what you mean. Say they had to touch eachother to impart motion; why would that be any more or less harmonious? You have very strange views about space and time separation if you think that touching is a more special relation for imparting force than any other relation.

    JM, Muffti is indeed the atheist of the Jewlicious Crew.

  122. Jewish Mother

    6/9/2005 at 3:55 pm

    GM, when shoelaces are tied together, ease feet out of shoes and run to shul barefoot.

    The physics department is down the corridor. You are in the religion department. It is different here. If you don’t like it, fine, we can all meet in the cafeteria later, but know where you are.

    A god you could prove existed, by observation and/or, reasoning, would not be transcendental, and therefore not a god. Gee whiz.

    It is simply a feeling, and a personal viewpoint to believe in G-d. Einstein did. I guess he knew enough science.

    Everybody is entitled to his opinion. But trying to talk someone out of faith is mere proseletyzing.

    Nathan’s beliefs cannnot be disputed as if they were factual errors. They do not address fact.

    The great age and universal utility to history of Judaism militate against it being a private craziness, or superstition.

    GM, I am sure G-d is interested in your views.

    Happy Shavuos.

  123. grandmuffti

    6/9/2005 at 4:30 pm

    Errr…thanks JM, Muffti thinks 🙂 Muffti doesn’t really see why any factual claim can’t be disputed: It’s either a fact that God exists or a fact that he doesn’t. If God is simply a feeling, then undisputedly God exists. If he is more than a feeling, well, then his existence is controversial.Great age and universal utility don’t seem to have much to do with truth: folk physics has great utility and great age but is demonstrably false (things don’t actually contact each other like we think in folk physics, solid stuff is more space than material, the location and speed of things is probabilistic rather than determinate…) Is folk physics a religion or superstition? No, it’s a theory of the world and it’s, as muffti said, demonstrably false on almost all aspects.

    As for Einstein, well, I couold appeal to authority just as easily and start citing brilliant atheist physicists. But that would be a pretty stupid game to play, now, wouldn’t it?

    As for God, he’s welcome to come and discuss my views any time. If he does, Muffti will be glad to change them. It would be nice: contrary to what you (and JS) are saying, that event really would be evidence for God’s existence and not just a feeling or personal viewpoint.

  124. Jewish Mother

    6/9/2005 at 5:07 pm

    The word “exist” is giving trouble.

    G-d is limitless. And also not knowable. In the sense that I know I have ten fingers and I am sitting at a desk.

    G-d does not exist in the limited way you are defining the word “exist”. He is way bigger than that.

    You drag in physics, as if it were your safe place.

    But, folk physics or Princeton physics, a discussion of physics is not a discussion about G-d in any way.

    And, a discussion about G-d cannot be advanced by any reference to physics.

    You know a lot about physics, so you steer the conversation toward it. But is that kosher?

    It’s like dragging the dead horse off Kosciusko Boulevard and around the corner onto Grant Avenue to make writing the police report easier, because you can’t spell Kosciusko.

    What do you think of Ariyeh Kaplan? He was a believing Jew who was a professional physicist.

    Why do people always build their houses out of doors?

  125. grandmuffti

    6/9/2005 at 5:30 pm

    Ummmn…let’s see:

    Muffti is happy to define ‘exists’ anyway you like. Actually, he’s pretty sure that ‘exists’ is indefinable since nothing seems to be more conceptually primitive than it. You tell me how you want to define it. But it’s funny to think that theists aren’t in the business of saying that God exists.

    As for physics, Muffti knows little about physics. His point was that universal utility and great age can be served by false theories just as well as true ones. In fact, sometimes better depending on the goal at hand. So it’s age and utility don’t give Judaism much right to being more than baseless superstition anymore than sexism and racism have a right to be considered ethical because they have been around so long and served so many of us so well.

    Muffti was trying to outline a difference in paradigm between scientific explanation and religious explanation as a historical claim about why science and religion seem to conflict. That’s all he was trying to do. JS dragged physics in to show that physics implied God. Muffti thought the idea ridiculous and based on implausible assumptions.

    If you don’t know how God ‘exists’, or don’t know God, perhaps theists shouldn’t be so gung ho on saying things that imply his existence (like that he created the universe, etc.) in my regular limited sense.

    As for Ariyeh Kaplan, Muffti will tell you what he thinks when you tell him about what you think of Stephen Hawking. He is a pro physicist who is an atheists. Does this really get us anywhere?

  126. Joe Schmo

    6/9/2005 at 5:33 pm

    “if you think that touching is a more special relation for imparting force than any other relation.”

    -I never said there was a difference in the relationship between touching and other things. Can’t you follow the flow of the conversation?
    You are the one who mentioned about different areas of the universe and the idea of distance making a difference. I am simply showing that even across distance everything is connected.

    quote: “magnet a ‘knows’ about b because it is affected by a force. what is so mysterious or harmonious about that? ”

    –I see ‘because it is affected by a force’ your a genious. Don’t you think I know that? thats the whole point! Are you again ignoring that something must cause that effect?!

    Did you forget the whole ‘knowing that there is a cause from the effects conversation’ that we had above?
    You had agreed to that in comment #10:
    quote: “Muffti never said anything about only believing what he can see. Nor did he say that you can’t infer things about a cause based on its effects. What he *did* say was that there is no reason to think that there is a single cause…”

    -why are you going in circles after you already admitted this obvious fact that all science is based on?

    To me its obvious and I am sure that to the unbiased reader it is also obvious:
    If an electromagnet where before electrons go through it it is ‘dead’ but as soon as electricity flows through it all of a sudden ‘knows’ exactly where a piece of metal is and is drawn to it wherever that metal is- it is obvious that something is causing that magnet to know where to be attracted to.

    If lightning knows exactly where the tallest closest lightening rod is obviously something is ‘telling’ it where to go.

    This is something which is so obvious that the only way a person could think otherwise is if they are in a state of denial.

  127. Joe Schmo

    6/9/2005 at 5:38 pm

    Mufti said “If you don’t know how God ‘exists’, or don’t know God, perhaps theists shouldn’t be so gung ho on saying things that imply his existence (like that he created the universe, etc.) in my regular limited sense. ”

    but before mufti said

    ” Muffti never said anything about only believing what he can see. ”

    –Now you have contradicted yourself.

    Do you have to see and understrand its details it in order to know something’s existence or not.
    Make up your mind.

  128. grandmuffti

    6/10/2005 at 1:20 pm

    Sheesh, Schmo, now you’re just getting rude. Allright, Muffti will take one last crack at this.

    First of all, you should go look up what a ‘contradiction’ is. It is when two sentences cannot both be true. Muffti didn’t contradict anything: what Muffti said was (a) he doesn’t think that you are limited to believing only what you see and (b) if you don’t know that something exists, or don’t know how it exists, you shouldn’t be certain that it doesn’t exists and you should be certain about things that imply its existence.

    That’s not a contradiction: Muffti thinks that we can’t see electrons but we have good reason to say they exist because i) we know how they exist and we are certain about things that imply their existence. Muffti thinks that not knowing how something exists is evidence against you knowing that it exists. The things that we can’t see that we say exist are things whose mode of existence we can characterize.

    Second, while science is committed to giving explanations, it is in no way committed to attributing everything to a single cause. That’s a premise you keep asserting but at no point give any argument for whatsoever. It may turn out to be that everything has a single cause but observations of unity don’t show this at all.

    You said:
    “f lightning knows exactly where the tallest closest lightening rod is obviously something is ‘telling’ it where to go.”

    Muffti doesn’t know how to make this clearer: lightning doesn’t ‘know’ where to go, it goes based on where the relevant forces dictate that it will go. The forces themselves aren’t events so they don’t get ’caused’ in the way events get caused. They are simply the constants on which the universe is based.

    The problem with you is that you keep demanding that those constants and how they are set require explanation. Or that something has to keep them constant. These aren’t events and don’t fall under event-event explanation. So you can go on demanding that you are blue in the face that something must explain why the constants are that way and there is no reason to accept that there is any further reason for them being that way. Anymore than Muffti could ask you til he’s blue in the face to explain why god is omnipotent: if there is a god, he just is omnipotent. There is no further explanation.

    This isn’t arguing in a circle, or doing whatever you were accusing Muffti of doing. This is just the point Muffti has been trying to say all along: while religion demands explanation in terms of goals, or intentions (i.e. God making the universal forces and constant in just this way because he wanted to), modern science tries to offer entirely non-telic explanations: explain all that you see in terms of the smallest number of non-goal based explanations, in our case, in terms of wave-particles and forces (or possibly super strings, or whatever physics turns out to claim is the basic funiture of the universe). It’s clear to Muffti that you are the one who isn’t following the train of argument very well. Big surprise for Muffti. You should probably stick to what youa re good at: biblical interpretation.

    So do yourself a favour and go learn some logic before you throw around words like ‘contradiction’ and ‘circular reasoning’ that you clearly don’t understand.

  129. Joe Schmo

    6/16/2005 at 11:15 pm

    I didn’t see your absurd response until now.

    The difference between us is clear.

    You think that lightening can ‘just know’ by having some ‘magical force’ it follows. You believe that the force is some ‘constant.’
    You define two terms an ‘event’ and a ‘constant’ and say that an ‘event’ needs a cause but a ‘constant’ doesn’t need a cause.

    To me that is absurd. To me it is obvious that waht you call a ‘constant’ must be caused and the constant being omnipotent (all over) must have a cause that is also omnipotent.

  130. grandmuffti

    6/18/2005 at 6:04 pm

    hehehe…Schmo, Muffti has no idea what youa re talking about. Lightening doesn’t just ‘know’. There is no ‘magical force’: there are laws of nature that describe and predict it exactly. A constant isnt’ a thing, it’s a numerical set of descriptions of the fundamental forces of the universe. They aren’t caused because it doesn’t make any sense to say they are ’caused’. IT’s a bit like asking why the number 2 is greater than the number 1. Nothing causes that because it’s neither a thing nor an event that can be the subject of causation.

    Anyhow, Muffti supposes that reasonable people have to be allowed to disagree about this kind of thing. But if anyone is requiring a magical force, it’s you: since you accept there are constants that the universe obeys and demand a further explanation for them. Why that isn’t just more of a demand for the things you are pejoratively labelling ‘magical’ is well beyond Muffti.

  131. Joe Schmo

    6/18/2005 at 9:10 pm

    I have no idea what you are talking about and Im sure noone else either does.

    You the ‘rational atheist’ is the one who believes in black magic.
    Changing the terminology such as ‘nature’ or ‘force’ doesn’t change anything.
    You are saying that things ‘just happen’ – magic.

    I recognize that nothing can just happen by itself.

    It’s that simple.

  132. grandmuffti

    6/19/2005 at 1:55 pm

    Well, Muffti supposes that if you are willing to call ‘gravity’ a form of ‘magic’, despite its completely lawful and predictable nature, Muffti has nothing to say to you. To ask why gravity is the way it is is just to ask a question that doesn’t make any sense by the standard of science (unless it is predictable from some more fundamental force). It is like Muffti asking you ‘why is God omnipotent? If everything requires a cause, what caused God to be omnipotent?’ We know that infinite regresses are just those: infinite. So something has to be taken as primitive. Why you would take an unobservable God as your primitive rather than the basic, characterizable forces of the universe to be your primitive is well beyond Muffti’s comprehension.

    But that was the whole point of what Muffti was saying earlier: the type of questions science recognizes are very different from the type asked by religion: modern science is committed to answering questions in terms of laws that characterize the basic bits of matter of the universe without recourse to teleology. Asking what causes the laws to be as they are from that point of view is senseless: the laws aren’t events of the kinds of things that can figure as effects of causal statements.

    Muffti isn’t saying that things just ‘happen’: when something happens it is the result of basic forces that predicatably govern how the world works (either deterministically or probabilistically, depending on what the true interpretation of quantum mechanics turns out to be). In fact, it’s precisely because these forces are predicatable that stuff doesn’t ‘just happen’. Perhaps Muffti doesn’t understand what you mean by ‘magic’.

  133. Joe Schmo

    6/19/2005 at 4:38 pm

    Magic is predictable – a magician can perform the magic tricks for the audience over and over. The audience is led to believe that the magician can always do it.

    What makes it magic is that
    1. only the magician can do it and not the audience.
    b. the audience doesn’t understand how the magician did it and are in awe because of that.

    So magic is predictable – I don’t know where you
    got your definition of magic as being unpredictable.

    If it was unpredictable with the magician not having complete control over its outcome the audience would not stand in awe and the magician would be out of business.

    In fact magic is the perfect word to use for the unexplainable laws of nature.

  134. Joe Schmo

    6/19/2005 at 4:49 pm

    Just for you Mufti I just looked up the definition of magic-I was right on target:

    1. The art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural.

    2. The practice of using charms, spells, or rituals to attempt to produce supernatural effects or control events in nature.

    -the predictable control of nature is magic.

  135. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 4:52 pm



    Not very solid foundations there…

  136. Joe Schmo

    6/19/2005 at 6:03 pm

    Attempts purports because they cant really do it.

    If the magician could ‘really’ do the magic – the magician would be doing it predictably.

    That is why G-d is the ultamate magician and nature is the ultamate magic. G-d does what we don’t understand how its done. He does it constantly and predictably and we stand in awe at His magical abilities.

  137. grandmuffti

    6/19/2005 at 6:29 pm

    Oy, Joe. My appologies. Call it ‘magic’ if you like and call God a magician if you like. Muffti doesn’t really want to argue semantics so he’ll concede. However, as your definition shows, magic presupposes a magician. The laws of nature don’t presuppose anything. They are just descriptions of how the world works and what regularities you can expect. It’s only demands from the religious that make it seem as though we are watching a trick that someone is performing for us. There is no need to think that and no cause to think that. It is only confusion over what sort of things are the proper relata of causal relations that even prompt the question. But whatever…

  138. Joe Schmo

    6/19/2005 at 11:44 pm

    How foolish.
    Ill try once more to get through although i see its pretty difficult. Give me one example of something that DOES require a cause since you seem to be saying that some things do require a casue and some don’t.
    I need a specific example not a general statement.

  139. grandmuffti

    6/20/2005 at 1:39 pm

    Ummn…World War II required a cause (or, to be more specific, each subevent of WWII required a cause). Muffti isn’t actually sure that it is a priori that anything has a cause: he isn’t sure why things couldn’t just happen randomly. Nonetheless, it seems that the events of WWII had causes.

    Some more examples? My fingers moving over the key board requires a cause (my brain sending signals to my fingers for examples).

    The key difference is that WWII was an event; the laws of nature aren’t events.

  140. Joe Schmo

    6/20/2005 at 4:40 pm

    What allows your mind to think.

  141. grandmuffti

    6/20/2005 at 4:47 pm

    Nothing ‘allows’ my mind to think. What allows your God to act? Why doesn’t anyone every admit that these questions are analogous?

  142. ck

    6/20/2005 at 4:58 pm

    So not analogous. Your mind is an earthly entity, whereas “my” God isn’t. It’s beyond apples and oranges even. Heavy stuff man. HEAVY!

  143. grandmuffti

    6/20/2005 at 5:10 pm

    hehehe…nah uh. God is supposed to answer a question liek ‘what allows my mind to think’? or ‘what makes lightening appear to go ‘downwards’ to the earth’? The same question can be asked about God: what makes him omnipotent. And if you say ‘he just is’, Muffti doesn’t see why he can’t say ‘gravity operates as it does because it just does [unless it can be deduced from more basic quantum forces’].

  144. Joe Schmo

    6/20/2005 at 10:53 pm

    Mufti its hard to deal with someone who changes position constantly.

    You have said that:
    “Muffti never said anything about only believing what he can see. Nor did he say that you can’t infer things about a cause based on its effects.”

    -so why do you crcle constantly to the same wrong argument.

    ck is absolutely right.
    We can know that the cause which is G-d is above nature. We don’t know His actual nature but just because I don’t have all the details doesn’t mean anything.

    What we do know is that everything that we can comprehend in this world cannot just be.

    You are not grasping the point.

    When you keep equating G-d with a physical attribute such as gravity you are immediately stating that you are unwilling to accept that there might be something above the physical nature and laws that we comprehend.
    You are, in effect, saying that since you can’t see and comprehend Him He can’t exist.

    Thats your folly.

    Grasp this simple point.

    I can 100% know that something exists even without understanding how and the exact nature.

    You as the typical atheist blocks out that possibility.

    Once you accept that as a possibility and realize that it just could be that we cannot know the nature of something above us -your comment no longer makes sense.

  145. Jim R

    6/21/2005 at 6:50 am

    Science satisfies our logical, reasoning, thinking side. It is cold and unforgiving, but oh so interesting. Sort of like most Dads.

    Religion satisfies our emotional, psychological, social, side. It is warm and forgiving, and oh so interesting. Sort of like Moms.

    We really need both.

  146. grandmuffti

    6/21/2005 at 4:12 pm

    Oy, Schmo, this is getting tiresome. You should go look up ‘strawman argument’ since you are doing it to the Muffti.

    Muffti never said that you can’t know things to exist but not know their natures. What he said was that you have an argument that isn’t sound, or it proves that something caused God and his attributes (Muffti is not requiring here that you say what God is, or what his attributes are. All that you have to admit is that God exists and that he has some attributes or other). All Muffti wants to know is this: does EVERYTHING have a cause? If so, then if God is a thing (of any sort, with any sort of or lack of understanding on our behalf) in the sense that he exists? If so, by YOUR OWN PRINCIPLE, God has a cause. If it’s not true that everythign has a cause, then your argument that the laws of nature must have a cause is based on a false premise.

    Muffti is saying the following, so stop twisting his words: Muffti admits that there very well might be something above and beyond physical laws. He just has seen no reason to accept that other than the crappy argument you keep giving. So answer Muffti’s question or shut the fuck up: does God have an external cause or not? It’s inconsistent with basic tennetns of faith to answer yes. But if no, then the principle that everything has a cause is false.

  147. grandmuffti

    6/21/2005 at 4:30 pm

    Sorry, Joe, that was rude. Too much coffee. Please accept the Muffti’s appologies.

  148. themiddle

    6/21/2005 at 4:47 pm

    I dunno, “or shut the fuck up” has a kind of honesty and freshness to it that’s going to get somebody’s attention. You Destroyer of Judaism, you.

  149. judi

    6/22/2005 at 11:21 am

    FYI- Rabbi Natan Slifkin (zootorah.org) will be speaking in New Haven, CT on The origins of the universe and evolution. His books concerning reconciling science and Torah have been banned by many ultra-right Rabbis and his writings were removed from the Aish website. That sounds like mighty good incentive to go see him, no? I’ll be posting info on my blog sometime today. Leave me a message if you have specific questions.

  150. Jewish Mother

    6/22/2005 at 12:38 pm

    One G-d, many worlds.

    Not, one world, many gods.

    There are a lot of levels going on at once, but we don’t relate to them all at once.

    You don’t sigh over your love’s terrific kidneys or liver because you can’t see them, and would not like to see them. Ttheir marvelous functioning is not part of your experience of your love, although your love would be dead if they didn’t function.

    Science is about the marvels of nature and religion is about our personally lived lives.

    We cannot squeeze religion out of science and we cannot squeeze science out of religion and we are very lucky to have both.

    There does not have to a periodic chart of the elements on the wall of the synagogue.

    But, there should be a mezuzah on the door of the science lab.

    Judi, keep an eye on Slifkin. If his tone is contemptuous of Torah, set him straight. He has every right to walk away, but none to burn it down before walking away.

  151. Jewish Mother

    6/22/2005 at 2:48 pm

    GM – NO, G-d doesn’t have an external cause, or you would have to pray to that external cause.

    About things having causes: we do not live in a pre-scripted, deterministic universe even though there is causality. There is also something else besides causality: randomness, and also free will, which we all know is real because it is a permanent part of how we live. It’s a paradox, a dynamic. No, there is no total explanation that will nail all phenomena down, so they will be good, and stop wiggling.

    There is no randomness really, that is just where we glimpse G-d’s presence.

    (THAT is a belief. This IS a religious discussion. We ARE entitled to “just believe” here. I wouldn’t do that upstairs in the science department.)

    A guy drops his wallet. Gravity CAUSES it to fall. He picks it up. His friend spots him from a cab and yells, Hey! Yitzy! Come over later! They wave. The cab just HAPPENED to drive by. Gravity was a CAUSE, and the encounter was (seemed?) random. The guy thinks about it and decides he doesn’t have time for the invitation. That’s free will.

    Yet G-d is deep into all of it. If you want to see it that way. Lot’s of perfectly sane people do and have for a long time, but without letting go of their rational abilities either.

  152. judi

    6/22/2005 at 3:16 pm

    JM- I’ve never encountered anything even mildly contemptuous in any of Rabbi Slifkin’s writings. If you can’t find his books, you can read some of his essays on his website. Don’t rely on second-hand information. See for yourself.

    I was trained in molecular genetics and I guess my view of the universe is similar to Einstein’s: I just want to know how He does it! That’s it. No denial of God’s presence or influence, no denial of divine authorship of Torah. Certainly no delusions of being able to actually replicate God’s master plan. But also no denial of the miracle of scientific discovery. And please– don’t insult me with any ridiculous contortions to explain away widely accepted scientific principles.

    BTW, I personally feel that just as a shul doesn’t need a periodic chart, a science lab doesn’t need a mezuzah. That’s for your house.

  153. wine guy

    6/22/2005 at 3:32 pm

    Rabbi Slifkin is awsome, the first time I heard him speak he came into the lecture hall, and asked us if we thought the dinosaur bones, in the Metropolitain Museum of Art were real, and then he told us they were all fake!! LOL I almost died I thought, this guy is totally insane, then he explained that the real ones were underneath the museum for safe keeping

  154. Jewish Mother

    6/22/2005 at 3:36 pm

    Judi, I think you and I agree pretty well.

    As for Slifkin I am not going to bother with him. He is cross at something I am trying to learn.

    “Tell me what you believe in, I have enough doubts of my own”.

    He can’t teach me science, I know more about it than he does. He certainly could teach me Torah, but why would I want to learn if from someone who is cross at it?

    Go girl! It can’t be easy!

  155. Jewish Mother

    6/22/2005 at 3:40 pm

    Wine Guy, so what does that bit of museology prove? Big deal.

    I am suspicious of somebody who has found an attractive schtick. Makes great copy.

  156. judi

    6/22/2005 at 4:38 pm

    Wine Guy- I thought it was funny.

  157. wine guy

    6/22/2005 at 6:25 pm

    Hey JM whats wrong with Slifkin
    Prove?Prove what? I’m not fallowing…I think he does good work…We can be scientists and Torah observant Jews, whats wrong with that?

  158. Jewish Mother

    6/23/2005 at 9:26 am

    Nothing wrong with being scientists and Torah observant in my opinion. Don’t know the guy. Saw TIMES piece on him, did not like. Detected creepy mocking tone. Don’t want to touch. BS detector went crazy. Not my issue.

    Don’t like these Spinoza, Mendelsohnn knock-offs, they make this BT laugh. Then cry.

    Faith is hard. Faith is not an academic discipline. He is making it one.

  159. Wine guy

    6/23/2005 at 10:21 am

    Avram was able to look at the world and understand and know that Hashem exists I’m not saying that we are on that level but I think it’s a valid approach, not all encompassing there will always be a need for Emunah

  160. judi

    6/23/2005 at 11:55 am

    With all due respect, Judaism has long been an academic discipline. The Talmud is the essence of book learning. Rambam had no problem saying that only the uneducated should look at Bereshit in a literal sense. No one would dare accuse him of having a mocking tone. He understood the need for religion to withstand the test of time- a prospect badly served by marching in place over thousands of years.

    Faith really truly is hard. But if your faith is so fragile that you put your hands over your ears and scream “LALALALALALAL I CAN”T HEAR YOU!” because you can’t process any additional information without the prior approval of the Gedolim, that’s a problem.

    That said, Rabbi Slifkin will be giving his dinosaur lecture. If you’re close to New Haven, CT please stop by and have a listen.

  161. Joe Schmo

    6/23/2005 at 12:41 pm

    Mufti I was away. In either case no offense you have to say what has to be said.

    This is how I see it:

    1. The only thing I as a person can know is that anything I can comprehend has a cause.
    -ie there is nothing in this world I can think of that doesn’t have a cause. Why? Because everything is relying on forces. Things are pulled towards each other…away from each other…. Even physical things rely on forces. Solids are pulled together so the objects don’t spread apart and disintegrate. Without forces pulling molecules together you couldn’t have a solid. A liquid relies on forces in nature to keep it in liquid form. So too for everything.

    So in essence what I am saying is that the only thing I can be sure of that are caused are things that I can comprehend that rely on constantly being held in place.

    2. But I can’t be sure that there isn’t something else out there that I have no experience with and that does not rely on any of the forces I am familiar with-I can’t be sure that that would need a cause.

    So if you can see and accept as true those two points above it forces us to an interesting conclusion.

    We are forced to say that there must be something out there in the second category of things I have no experience with that is not relient on any forces because if the only things that exist are in the first category of things I can comprehend then we have things that I can clearly comprehend as being caused by something but there is no cause – a contradiction.
    –therefore there must be something else in existence of a nature I cannot comprehend and that I have no experience with.

  162. Joe Schmo

    6/23/2005 at 12:57 pm

    TM quote: “You Destroyer of Judaism, you.”

    Tm I don’t know…
    In a certain real sense I would call you a destroyer of Judaism much more so than Mufti.

    Mufti says what he thinks and argues his points but he is honest – he doesn’t claim its Judaism. Sure I think he is wrong and I am answering according to what I understand.

    But you come in name of Judaism. You are telling Jews and others that the Torah was written by man, that our forfather had some form of national hypnosis and much of what we have been told never happened.
    –All this you say in the name of Judaism.

  163. themiddle

    6/23/2005 at 1:05 pm

    Joe, thanks for clarifying. I feel better.

  164. grandmuffti

    6/23/2005 at 1:18 pm

    Hey Joe,

    As Muffti has posted before, God has promised not to let judaism be destroyed. So chill out on TM! 🙂

    Second, to your argument, which Muffti thanks you for stating coz it makes the issues a lot clearer. You have two premises:
    1) Everything has a cause
    2) But I can’t be sure that there isn’t something else out there that I have no experience with and that does not rely on any of the forces I am familiar with-I can’t be sure that that would need a cause.

    OK, well, let’s be clear again: premise 2 and premise 1 contradict eachother: if you KNOW premise 1 to be true, then you knwo that premise 2 is false. If you don’t know premise 2 to be true, then it follows (by an application of what is known as ‘closure’) that you don’t know premise 1 to be true. That’s Muffti’s point really: the more confident you are about everything having a cause, the less you should be in God’s not having a cause.

    You seem to recognize all of this so Muffti won’t belabour the point. But let Muffti push a little further: let us remember that premise (1) as stated is consistent with the universe going back forever in a series of causes (this is just Bertrand Russell’s point in ‘why I am not a christian’ is anyone is interested still!) i.e. it is consistent with the first premise that everything is caused by something other than it and that that series stretches back to infinity. (Muffti doens’t find this all that likely, but whatever). It is not consistent with a big bang, or some purely natural event being the very first cause, but neither is God’s being uncaused so the atheist is clearly not going to accept the unrestricted version of premise 1 anymore than you will (since you need GOd to be uncaused.)

    Your second premise, as well, is interesting but it is cool to see what is consistent with. Say we accept that things we can’t comprehend might not have causes. Well, that is consistent with a lot of hypotheses: in particular, your argument in no way tells us that there aren’t many gods, all acting in Harmony. That there isn’t a god at every instant who dies and antoher one takes over…so it is not real victory for the theist to get as far as you have.

    Finally, let Muffti ask one provocative question. This doesn’t seem plausible to Muffti but just to shake your convinction in Premise 1 a little bit. Say that the world was run in the following way: at every moment, God rolled a die and made the next moment consistent with the set of events he had assigned to that side of the die. However, imagine the die was genuinely random. Well, then you would see exactly what you see but it wouldn’t be due to causality: it would be due to sheer randomness. If you can’t rule that out as a possibility, you shouldn’t be so confident in Premise 1: since you would have all the same evidence you actually have.

    That’s just a skeptical scenario, borrowed from the Philsopher David Hume. THe idea is that you don’t experience causality, you have a tendency of mind to infer its truth.

  165. Jewish Mother

    6/23/2005 at 2:19 pm

    Judi, I am quite educated and I take Bereshit literally. I don’t know how I do that, but it is not a problem for me. I know ALL the science and I LOVE knowing because it. IT just increases my awe of G-d. Let’s say you admire your mother. Then, later, you find out more and more details about what she actually accomplished. Your admiration only increases the more you know. Science is like that for me.

    On Friday night I am concentrating on something else besides science. I don’t quarrel with it I just don’t care about it then. On Friday night, science becomes an overstuffed filing cabinet spilling a flood of millions of true but essentially irrelevant details about galaxies and fleas’ legs, and who cares. Get to the point! Tell me the big story!

    I just don’t have any problem with this. Slifkin would not be my choice for a science teacher if I wanted one. Nor would he be the obvious choice for someone new to religious life, like me, to learn Torah. He is clearly dissenting about it somehow. I have had enough of that. Generations.

    Judaism is a belief system, not an academic discipline. Yes, it is a belief system with a huge academic component, but that is not a hairsplitting silly difference, it is a huge difference. There is no clear line painted on floor to let you know you have left the building.

    Since the landscape is littered with smart people who are having faith crises, why not be careful?

    I bring to your notice that 1) faith is precious 2) it is fragile and 3) you do not have to jump in a barrel of er, molasses, to know what it is. You can tell from outside by observing, and that’s when it’s time to go home.

    People yet unborn are counting on you.

    My grandparents meant well, too. They were very nice people. But I had a narrow escape.

    Just saying.

    I am mulling your remark that there should not be a mezuzah on a lab door. I am beginning to think that maybe there should be one, even though it is not required, as it is not a home. G-d is one, G-d is everywhere not just in the shul. We must not carve out areas where he is not. You know, bars he doesn’t go to, and where you would not go, if you were hoping to run into Him. He is everyplace.

  166. Jewish Mother

    6/23/2005 at 4:15 pm

    So, Wine Guy is going to open a wine busines in Antarctica, on the part of it that is not melting, in the middle. Speaking of the middle, TM will have his trained penguins show up when Wine Guy gets married there, and there will be terrific wine at the wedding, naturally.

    It’s going to be a lot of fun.

  167. Joe Schmo

    6/23/2005 at 11:50 pm


    Premise 1 and Premise 2 only contradict because Premise 1 is slightly misstated.
    I am not sayting that
    ‘1) everything has a cause’ –then you would be right it would be a contradiction.

    I am only saying that
    1) All the things that I am familiar with in this world have a cause.

    and I’m also explaining why I feel that way. Its because I see that ALL things in this world that I am familiar with rely on constant forces holding them in place. So I have a basis for saying that something is causing them.

    I can’t say that ‘everything’ has a cause because I have no basis to judge things that might exist that I have no understanding or experience with.

    Regarding the second part of your argument I see that you might have misunderstood what I mean by the term ’cause.’

    When I use the term cause I didn’t mean time. In other words I didn’t mean to say that the causer preceded the caused item.

    What I really mean is let’s freeze time and focus on one moment. At that moment everything is being held together and the world is existing due to some ’cause’ or ‘power.’ This is similar to the fire on a stove which is being ’caused’ or ‘powered’ by gas. If at any moment the gas wouldn’t be there neither would the fire be there.

    Reread all my arguments as applied to one moment in time.

  168. grandmuffti

    6/24/2005 at 2:11 pm

    Ah, Muffti sees more clearly now. Sorry. Well, Muffti supposesthat then he disagrees with the idea that the world is being ‘held together’ by anything. Say we took a snap shot of the empire state buildingand asked what held it together. One might say ‘cement’. And then we asked why cement holds things togheter. And we’d say ‘because of various attractive forces at the molecular level that allows cement to be a bonding agent.’ And then if we asked why those forces allowed thing to be attractive, we’d probably try to (given a LOT of time) give rough descriptions of atomic structure and the strong and weak forces that hold at that level.

    Surely at that point you could ask ‘oh yeah, but what makes THOSE forces do what they do’. At some point, we all admit that you can’t ask that question anymore: Muffti’s scientist will say, at some point down the line ‘well, that’s just how the universe works.’ And Schmo will say ‘why does the universe work that way? that must be caused by something since it could have worked some other way!’ and then he’ll say ‘God is clearly the agent that makes things as they are rather than otherwise.’

    The clever scientist will then ask ‘well, why is it that God is that way rather than some other way?’ and presumably that’s where Schmo will say something like ‘I don’t make any pretence at comprehending God so I don’t really know. I just know that God exists in order to make the universe the way it is.’

    The atheist should say in response: ‘I could have just said that in the first place about the laws of nature: I don’t know why they are that way, they just are. What does positing some further being whose nature you admittedly can’t comprehend, really add to the story? Furthermore, why shouldn’t there be two Gods who work in harmony but are capable of fighting if they want to? Or why not think there is a further God who controls the action of the God immediately responsible for controlling the universe…’

    In other words, imagine that Muffti told you that things were a certain way and you asked why. And he told you ‘because some further mysterious being wants it to be that way. And don’t ask why that mysterious being is that way; he JUST IS.’ It’s not clear why it wouldn’t have been an equally good answer to say ‘why are things like that? They just are!’

    Muffti finds himself stumped when trying to answer these question. It’s part of the reason he’s not a theist.

    As for the argument that you can knwo that everything (you can comprehend) has a cause because all the things you experience have a cause, well, that’s a sorta fishy extension. Muffti takes it that neither of us have direct access to experiencing the subatomic world where things have the properties of both waves and particles simultaneously even though they seem muutally contradictory. And we both know that the things we experience are, in reality, very little like the way we experience them (the chair you sit on is more empty space than material. The objects that seem to touch are never actually directly adjacent. The colours you see that seem independant are often surrouding dependant…) So, Muffti finds it hard to take too seriously the inductive argument that takes us as having a correct story in our ‘folk physics’, which indeed does seem to require that everything has a cause.

  169. Joe Schmo

    6/24/2005 at 3:10 pm

    quote: “The atheist should say in response: ‘I could have just said that in the first place about the laws of nature: I don’t know why they are that way, they just are. What does positing some further being whose nature you admittedly can’t comprehend, really add to the story?”

    -The only problem with that is that the laws of nature aren’t independant things. The ‘law of gravity’ for example is just a description of a relationship between physical bodies.
    Just like space and time are not actual things – they are just description of how objects are relative to each other, so too the laws of nature are not self-dependant but are just descriptions of relations between things.

    Just like you couldn’t say that ‘space’ caused something to exist – because space itself is dependant on the existence of objects (with no objects there is no space) so too all the laws of nature, as I understand them, are just descriptions of interactions of objects and are therefore dependant on those objects and indeed it would make no sense to imagine a law of nature without the objects they describe.

    Therefore they can’t be the cause.

    The cause I seek is a cause that is not dependant on the caused.

  170. grandmuffti

    6/24/2005 at 5:17 pm

    Laws of nature indeed are descriptions of how things interact, but they are true of how things interact in virtue of forces (like gravity) that cause the interactions. As for space and time, all of modern physics takes them to be real (actually, takes them to be basically inseparable and they speak of space time points rather than simply space or time). After all, one thing we know is that the universe (i.e. space) is expanding. But they certainly don’t cause stuff to exist.

    The idea then is that nothing causes matter to exist: it just exists. And always has since the beginning of the universe (that’s the whole point of the law of conservation of matter). Why not think that matter is independant and is primitive?

    (It will do no good to say that all the things you are familliar with havve been caused to exist: they are simply reorganizations of fundamental matter: you’ve never seen matter come in or out of existence as the law of conservation demands. You’ve seen cars come in and out of existence, people, but never matter.)

    Now Muffti is getting a little lost as to where we are in the dialectic. He is a slow thinker.

  171. Joe Schmo

    6/24/2005 at 5:41 pm

    What I am saying is that you can’t say to me ‘why go and search for an initial cause -why not just view the forces of nature as the initial cause. what does positing about a cause that is outside of our scope necessary? What does it add to our story?’
    -I think that was what your clever scientist would say (if I got that right).

    So I am explaining why that’s a problem. The laws of nature similar to space and time are all just terminology to describe relationships between object in this world.

    They are adjectives describing effects. They don’t exist without the objects they describe. Their existence completly depends on the existence of the objects they apply to.

    That is the problem with pointing to them as the initial cause. Its circular logic to say that they are the initial cause.

    Thats what it adds to our story. The only way I can find a cause not dependant on anything it powers (to avoid the circle) is to point to a cause not itself relient or defined in terms of the world which it is causing and allowing to exist.

  172. grandmuffti

    6/27/2005 at 2:54 pm

    OK, there are two things getting mixed up. (a) The laws of nature aren’t primitive, they are indeed descriptions of interacions between matter (or, possibly, the interactions of fields). HOwever, the laws are ABOUT forces which acutally perform the interactions. (i.e. Gravity is a force, the law of gravity is a description of how that force works (sort of)).

    Anyhow, the point is supposed to be that the forces and matter don’t exist in virtue of anything else: they simply exist. The laws describe what they do given initial conditions (though, the laws may only describe this probabilisticially if the orthodox inerpretation of quantum mechanics is right).

    Muffti however sees what this debate is realy about. Muffti is inclined to take the world, its matter and its forces, as primitive entities in the world and thinks that it is senseless to ask for some further force that causesa nd allows the world to maintain its existence. He thinks it is a mistake to posit a force beyond all the physical foreces, taht is responsible for making the physical forces. Joe, you seem to be the kind of guy that sees a mystery where Muffti is pretty sure there is none. All of it seems to stem from the so called prinicple of sufficient reason: if things are a certain way, but intuitively could have been another way, there must be some reason why they are one way rather than the other. THis principle strikes Muffti as fallacious, or at least as leading to an infinite regress so he says the principle is false and refuses to offer explanations of why the world is as it is: it simply is. You, the theist, are inclined to take the regress a step further and say ‘there must be some reason why thigns are as they are. SO there must be some being doing it.’ Of course, then you refuse to apply the principle to that being becuase you claim he is necessary and couldnt’ hae been other than he is. Muffti finds no justification for thinking that GOd is necessary: he could imagine a world with no God and he could certainly imagine a world where there are two gods who act in concert, or who fight against eachother…and so he thinks that if the principle were any good it woudl apply to god as well and that goes counter to what the theist wants.

    Muffti doesn’t think there is much of a way of solving this puzzle since there is a principle we clearly disagree on, but whcih neither of us is in any shape to really provide a proof of.

  173. int man

    6/30/2005 at 5:57 am

    fuck you religious jews are stupid, it’s already shaming the natural intellingent abilities of human race that you bleieve and have faith in bible, but then you try to fit that shit into reality, into the real life ( which can’t be done, this has been found again and again simply because your religion, like all others are pathetic conservative jokes ). all you religious weak minded can give as os few laughs, but nothing more as long as you keep your stupidity and live your pathetic lives in the cell of religion.

  174. Michael

    6/30/2005 at 7:22 am

    Oddly enough, it would appear that the “natural intellingent abilities” of the religious Jews here, if we’re going to be judging by skill with the English language alone, far outweigh those of our friend int man here.

  175. Joe Schmo

    6/30/2005 at 10:43 am


    I’ve had a break for a few days and Ive just seen this.

    OK I suppose that is the point of disagreement although I cannot see how you can accept your side. I just want it to be clear to you
    a. how I have no circuler logic in what I am saying
    b. why I think your side is wrong and
    c. a few examples showing that my understanding is not just made up by me as we spoke in order to answer you -but it is actually what the Jewish people have always said.

    a. I am not saying that ‘everything’ that might exist has a cause. The only thing I am saing is that the physical things in this world have a cause. I also realize that gravity is just an adjective describing an item. Just like an object has a color a density and a size it also comes with a force pulling at it. The color and size also are there because of the force of photons (color) and the force (pull) of molecules (density and size). For wxample copper is goldish colored it can conduct electrons easily and is pulled by magnets… I don’t see forces in this world as different than objects -they each define each other and are dependant on each other.
    Given that I feel that these physical objects that I see must be caused – it immediately follows that there must be something else not physical that causes them. It further follows that there can only be one coordinating force so long as all the objects (and their colors, forces…) work in tandem. If you want to say there are 2 or more forces but they are simoultaneously (within one moment of time) coordinated-then it is just semantics because the bottom line is that they are all being coordinated and something must be making that happen-thats why in the end there can only be One.

    b. I don’t even want to go into the probablility and other arguments that people make even though there is much merit to it. People argue that how can the eye or ear have been randomely created when they have independant parts. In all honesty I have a very hard time comprehending how people can really believe in evolution. There is alot to argue there -believe me that the beleif in evolution has taken on a religion in of itself with people accepting as fact and teaching to children their belief system.

    let me just focus on my arguments until now. To my mind it is as obvious as any axiom in mathematics such as ‘the sum of the parts equal the whole’ that something physical that is moving and has properties not of its own cause must have something powering it. It is also obvious to me that what powers something must be at least like what is being powered: ie If I am here and can think with my mind- the power allowing me to think must be as least as smart as I am.
    -This is the reason I think you are wrong.
    My mind tells me that there is no way that you can be right. You may as well tell me that 2+2=7.

    When our father abraham was young he looked around and he wanted to know how can this whole world be working? What is powering this world? He thought first that maybe the sun with its rays. But he realized that it couln’t be since the sun is not always around but the world is. He similarly concluded that the moon and any other heavenly bodies could not be the casue. Over time he came to understand that the cause had to be something constant and independant.

    When our fathers had the manna come down from heaven- towrds the end of the 40 years Moses told them:
    “8,3 And He afflicted thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every thing that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”

    -ie The very bread that you eat why does it nourish you? It only does so because G-d commanded it to -and you were given this substance from the heavens, not from the earth where bread comes from, in order to show you the everything works only because G-d made it like that. Just as He commanded the nature of bread to nourish so can He command anything to do His bidding as you yourselves saw with the Manna.

    I got the following off the internet to bring from the Talmud the same concept:

    “The Sages chose Chanukah, a festival that revolves around oil’s ability to burn, as the time to teach the fundamental truth that even so-called “natural” events take place only because God wants them to. When seen in the perspective of God’s will, the burning of oil is no less miraculous than would be the burning of water. The Talmudic Sage Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa pithily expressed this truth in explaining a miracle that occurred in his own home. Once, his daughter realized that she had poured vinegar instead of oil into the Sabbath menorah. Rabbi Chanina calmed her, saying, “Why are you concerned! The One Who commanded oil to burn, can also command vinegar – and it will burn!” The Talmud goes on to relate that those Sabbath lights remained aflame until after the Sabbath ended (Taanis 25a). To hammer home this truth, the Sages decreed that Chanukah be observed for eight days: The last seven to commemorate the miracle of the Menorah, and the first to remind us that even the ‘normal’ burning of oil is only in obedience to God’s wish. (Rabbi David Feinstein) ”

    I tried my best to clarify all the points and why I believe what I am saying to be correct.

  176. grandmuffti

    7/2/2005 at 12:59 pm

    Hey JS,

    That last bit was especially interesting; the bit about Hannukah. Muffti didn’t say you were reasoning in a circle: but he can tell you exactly where we disagree. You said:

    Given that I feel that these physical objects that I see must be caused – it immediately follows that there must be something else not physical that causes them. It further follows that there can only be one coordinating force so long as all the objects (and their colors, forces…) work in tandem.

    So, what is really underlying this is a famous principle known as the principle of sufficient reason (PSR): If a certain state obtains, but it could have failed to obtain, there must be a reason why it obtains. The idea is that the way things are has to be based on some sort of reason: things don’t just happen. So, since the world has gravity and it actsin a certain way, there must be a reason that it acts in that way. Since the entire world could have been different, we need some reason to explain why the (physical) world is this way.

    OK, Muffti register threee points about why he thinks this principle is no good. First of all, it doesn’t rule out an infinite succession of causes. You think there must be a single cause for everything: but Muffti doesn’t see why the principle isn’t consistent with their being no first cause (i.e. with causes stretching back forever). For example, it is consistent with the principle that the world was created by a non physical being named Steve, and that he was created by a non physical being named Shlomo, and that he was created by a non physical being named Dave…ad infinitum. Nothing about the principle says that there has to be a single thing at the end of the chain: the chain could stretch on forever. To think otherwise is to confuse the pricnciple, whcih says: everything must have a cause (some cause or other) with there is a cause that everything has (there is something that caused everything).

    Second, the principle of reason runs into purely conceptual trouble in an interesting way: it’s a bit of a long chain of argument but we can simplify a bit. First, if the world is the way it is but could have been other wise, you argue, there must be some reason that it is the way it is. Surely, though, the reason has to be a sufficient reason (i.e. the cause has to be enough to guarantee the effect). So, then, we can ask, why did God make the world this way rather than some other way? If the explanation is a sufficient one, then it will entail that God had to make the world this way rather than another. But this means that the world couldn’t have been other than it is unless God could have been other than he is. (i.e. God couldn’t have created a different world since then the explanation wouldn’t be true of why he created this one – it wouldnt’ be sufficient).

    This led theologians to think that maybe God really couldn’t have created another world and the explanation they come up with is that this world is the best possible world and God always creates the best possible thing. Read Voltaire’s Candide for a parody of the idea that this world is as good as it can be. Or watch the news once in a while.

    This may be confusing the principle of sufficient reason with the principle of sufficient cause; but Muffti isn’t sure it makes any difference. The thought that the world couldn’t be other than it is seems absurd to me. But maybe Muffti has misunderstood your argument, or the principle that it rests on.

    Finally, one quick note, on certain interpretations of quantum mechanics, the idea that there is a chain of causes is just wong headed: all that you have is probabilistic truths about where electrons will be and their momentum (i.e. nothing in the world has determinate properties). If this interpretation of QM is true, then any principle that demands causes must be false, at least if they are the sort of causes you are worried about (i.e. deterministic ones) since all that there is probabilistic transitions between states. (This is the famous Schroedinger’s Cat case where the state of the Cat is a super position until observed where the observation leads to collapse, but where the resolution of the super position is unpredictable as far as the laws go and therefore random.)

  177. Joe Schmo

    7/2/2005 at 10:29 pm


    I have to admit to not being able to follow your arguments. Ill go through your three points and maybe you can re-explain what I don’t understand.

    point 1:
    ‘sufficient reason’-I’m not really saying its because it could have been different -I mean more than that it didn’t have to be at all -there could have (and should have) been nothing.

    quote: “it is consistent with the principle that the world was created by a non physical being named Steve, and that he was created by a non physical being named Shlomo, and that he was created by a non physical being named Dave…ad infinitum. Nothing about the principle says that there has to be a single thing at the end of the chain: the chain could stretch on forever. To think otherwise is to confuse the pricnciple, whcih says: everything must have a cause (some cause or other) with there is a cause that everything has (there is something that caused everything).”

    –Your point seems to be refering to infinite in time. Remember from earlier that all my arguments are within ONE MOMENT of time. Today is independant from yesterday. I am NOT talking about yesterday or even an hour ago. I don’t know what an infinite chain of causes means if we are looking at one instant.

    point 2:
    –Why do you say that “the cause has to be enough to guarantee the effect”?- I am not saying that the world had to be exactly as it is. No. The cause could have made the world differently. Just like the the Hannukah story and the ‘not by bread alone’ point. All I’m saying is that without a cause there would be nothing. I think its your ‘sufficient reason’ argument that you are imputing to me -which is not exactly what I am saying-that makes you make this point.

    point 3 (Im not sure which was point 3):

    quote : “The thought that the world couldn’t be other than it is seems absurd to me. But maybe Muffti has misunderstood your argument, or the principle that it rests on.”

    –I agree with you here it could have been different isnt that the whole point of the Hannukah point above?

    I don’t follow the quantum mechanics argument.

  178. Joe Schmo

    7/3/2005 at 10:46 am

    “but he can tell you exactly where we disagree.”
    –redefine where we disagree again in light of my last post.

  179. grandmuffti

    7/3/2005 at 5:56 pm

    Let’s see;

    point 1: the idea was supposed to be that you are demanding a cause that keeps things as they are, since they could b e otherwise (or not at all; muffti doesn’t really think that it makes sense to say that there could be absolutely nothing, like, not even space time, but we can debate that another time). So that seems to be a demand for a sufficient cause for things being hte way they are rather than another way.

    The point about time is well taken, but Muffti thinks irrelevant: take an instant and ask why things are as tehy are at that instant, i.e. what keeps everything existing. It’s conceptuallly possible that for everything that exists, it exists in virtue of something else causing it to exist, which exists in virtue of something else causing it to exist…i.e. the principle is compatible with an infinite regress and you don’t need to do it using time.

    Point 2: Muffti’s point was that if you see everything the way it is and demand an explanation for why it is that way rahter than another possible way, and that explanation suffices to explainthe way things are, then it looks like you have to say that the explanation coudl have been otherwise (i.e. that god could have been otherwise) or, if God has to be the way he is, then he has to make the world the way he did. THat would make everything necessarily teh way it is.

    Think of it this way. Tkae all the things that could be otherwise and call that set F. Now, you posit fact E to explain F. Question: could E have been otherwise? If yes, then it should have been part of F to begin with and needs an explanation for why E is the case rather than something else. If not, then E couldn’t have been otherwise. But if E couldnt’ have been otherwise, and E guarantees F (i.e. entails F) then F couldn’t have been otherwise. So then F is necessary. Does that help?

  180. Joe Schmo

    7/3/2005 at 7:11 pm

    OK I think you are wrong and here’s why.

    point 1: If you include the ‘not at all’ then it would reduce to what I am saying.
    If there would exist no objects at all then automatically there exists no time and space. Those two things are relative and only make sense with the existence of other objects. I claim that without a cause there would exist nothing and time and space and distance would have no context.

    Point 2: I didn’t follow the E and F parable but I think I followed point 2. The mistake is that it is based on your assumption that if cause A is powering B then then A is ‘locked’ into powering only B and if B was different then A must be different.

    I disagree. You are only assuming that because of you experience with this physical world. You see that, for example, if something is thrown at x amount of speed then it must hit with y force. if it wasn’t hitting with y force then it must not have been thrown with x speed.

    You are making an analogy to G-d.
    But a closer analogy would be a person’s mind I (A) can build house B1 or house B2 or a car B3. Its my choice and if I make a different object it doesn’t change me.

    If you wouldn’t be making this assumption you wouldn’t make point 2.

  181. grandmuffti

    7/3/2005 at 7:52 pm

    Muffti isn’t sure why you are allowed to presuppose relationalism about space time: most physical theories take space time to be absolute (i.e. not just the relflection of distance relations between objects temporally and spatially.)

    Anyhow, the key thing is point 2. You say that the way the world is requires a cause. Muffti takes it that a cause must be sufficient for its effect (i.e. the cause must guarantee the effect happens). So, yeah, the lock on metaphor is good. If the cause is NOT sufficient for the effect (in the sense that the presence of the cause entails the effect) then how is it that the cause is fully responjsible for things being as they are?
    i.e. if God makes things one way, but could have made things another way, why aren’t we left with the question of why god made things this way rather than another one?

  182. Joe Schmo

    7/4/2005 at 12:23 pm

    The main point (2):
    I notice that you connect “the world is requires a cause” with “the cause must guarantee the effect happens” ?
    I don’t see why those must go together. I believe the first one is true but not the second one.

    If I build a house with one architectural design does that mean my mind is a different mind if I would have chosen another design?

    You might ask me why I chose this way and I might either give a reason why I chose this instead of another or I can tell you that this one is beautiful and works well and you are right I could have done it other ways.

    I see it the same here.

    That is why I say that you are making this assumption based on physical nature where its true that the causes have no choice they automatically cause a specific reaction. A closer analogy would be to the mind that is causing things to heppen like your moving your arm because you want to but in no way was it necessary – if it didn’t move that would mean your mind is different.

    space and time point:
    On the note of ‘most theories’ about space and time. I don’t know why different people theorize different hings. I only know what I can understand. I don’t know what the meaning oof space or itme mean if not relative. maybe you can explain for those other theories and give me a definition of time without the world. If the world froze for one hour in middle of your sentence and continued you wouldn’t kow the difference. Now ets say it froze for 2 hours or for a year-do those numbers mean anything if NOTHING happened?! It really has no meaning.
    This is not a new theory- it is obvious. The Ibn Ezra 1000 years ago in his commentary on Bereishith said that those who ask ‘what happend before creation’ – ie 5 hours before what was there are asking a question that makes no sense because 5 hours a day, 100 years is all the same with nothing changing-without the world.
    -so when you can give me an explanation of time that is not relative then I’ll take those theories seriously.

    Infinite causes in one moment of time point:
    Also its not conceptually possible to have an infinite regress of causes in one instant of time – just like i know for a fact that there cannot be an infinite number of stars at one moment. If you want to tell me that more and more stars are being created thats one thing but at this moment there can’t be an infinite number of them.

    Anyway for the first main point – I still dont understand why you connect those two and conclude that the cause must guarantee the effect. Again I believe that “the world requires a cause” and “the cause DOES NOT guarantee the effect happens.”

  183. grandmuffti

    7/4/2005 at 12:59 pm

    the first point is Interesting and Muffit is sure he can’t say enough to satisfy you since its a very deep question: well, the assumption Muffti had was that if something is a particular way, but could have been otherwise, then you need to explain what caused it to be that way. A cause is an event that is correlated with an effect in a non-accidental way. Put it this way: if everytime you struck a match, under exactly teh same conditions, it only like 40% of the time, you wouldn’t think that striking matches causes them to light. To be a cause just is to be something that determines the effect, 100% of the time under ideal conditions. Otherwise, it’s hard to see hwat makes it a cause.

    As for not knowing that there are infinite number of stars at one mooment, how can you possibly know that? Lines are composed of smaller and smlaler line segments. do you know that there aren’t an infinite number of parts of a line?

    W/r/t space and time, the idea is that they are primitives in the model. But put it this way: we know that we can create vacuums, or regions of space with nothing in them at all for a stretch of time.

    So now imagine the whole world was devoid of substance. You’d be left with a big vacuum. Why is that hard to understand? Do you think there is no space and time inside a vacuum?

  184. Joe Schmo

    7/5/2005 at 1:53 pm

    The cause/effect point:

    –I really do understand your point. But we ourselves see even in this world the concept of things that cause other things to happen although they themselves are not locked into causing that thing. The class of all living things – especially those with a mind that thinks. You type of cause applies to the class of inanimate things that are affected by the laws of nature that are set and don’t change. That’s all I meant when I said that you are modeling your analogy after the physical inanimate objects that we see.

    The stars point:

    –there is a big difference between dividing a line into smaller parts and having more and more lines of the same size.
    In the former case for every additional line segment they all get smaller with the amount of line being net the same. The former case is similar to something ‘converging’ in calculus The second (more lines or more stars) we can call ‘diverging’.
    The point is that when you divide a line into smaller parts – it is just in your mind- nothing is really added. This is a trick done in calculus a lot to determine, for example, the area under a curve. Since they know the area of a rectangle they in their mind’s eye divide the area under the curve into infinitesimally small rectangles and add the areas which ‘converge’ to the area under the curve.

    -but by the stars you are actually saying that there is actually more star matter – but how could that be at one point of time? Whatever the amount of matter there is at that point-there is – its not changing in a given moment.

    space and time point:
    –that I understand; but you aren’t seeing what I am saying.

    Lets say that I doubled the size of earth and everything on earth. So that a person 5’5” is now 10’10” tall and so too for all dimensions. This is done for every piece of matter. Now imagine I doubled the sun and everything else in the universe. Now in order that seem the same I make the sun double as far away from the earth as it was before and I do the same for all bodies in the universe- since I made them bigger I also increase their distance.
    Tell me did anything change? No its exactly the same! In fact if at this moment G-d Himself did that I we would not know the difference and it in fact wouldn’t make any difference. In fact who says that that isn’t being done right now? Maybe every second the universe is shrinking and then expanding as a unit? As long as it is done in proportion to everything in the universe nothing has actually happened. That is why I say that space and size are relative and interconnected. You could do the same analysis for time.

  185. grandmuffti

    7/5/2005 at 4:40 pm


    OK, we have to proceed with a little care. While we do see causes that are not ‘locked into’ their effects, we typicaly chalk that up to disturbances. So, for example, we have a law of gravity that tells us that feathers fall as fast as bowling balls. We then observe something else but we chalk it up to resistance and so forth. So its not clear that the causation we are interested isn’t a fully determinate affair, though the laws are simplifications of what is really going on since they abstract away from disturbances. So Muffti isn’t sure we actually see non-determinate causation.

    About the stars, Muffti is afraid that he couldn’t follow your point. You said:

    -but by the stars you are actually saying that there is actually more star matter – but how could that be at one point of time? Whatever the amount of matter there is at that point-there is – its not changing in a given moment.

    Muffti is afraid he found this kindof impenetrable. For their to be an infinite number of stars, there would presumably have to be an infinite amount of ‘star matter’, but so what? (unless the stars can be infinitesmally small Muffti guesses).

    Finally, the ‘doubling’ argument is a famous one, but it seems to Muffti to be a straightforward confusion of epistemology and metaphysics. How would we know if the universe was doubling? We wouldn’t. Could the universe be constantly doubling? Muffti doesn’t see why not.

    Now, there is an analysis on which the doubling scenario makes no sense, no doubt. But that it’s forced upon us by the argument you give doesn’t seem very likely. I think that the impossibility of doubling is perfectly intelligible.

  186. Joe Schmo

    7/5/2005 at 8:34 pm

    1. Well I think its for you to prove that it is determinate.
    So far as I or anyone else can tell based on our simple experience it is completely undeterministic.
    I will say further that the only ones I have heard trying to posit counterintuitively what you are trying to posit are Atheists.

    2. “Muffti is afraid he found this kindof impenetrable. For their to be an infinite number of stars, there would presumably have to be an infinite amount of ’star matter’, but so what? (unless the stars can be infinitesmally small Muffti guesses).”

    -? listen you tried to compare the infinite dividing of a line into smaller segments. All I am saying is that it is a wrong analogy.

    By the line- say a log – the log size remains the same. All you are doing is to imagine it being composed of small segments.

    By the stars you are not keeping the the total star mass in existence the same.
    You saying that the star’s total summed mass has no limit.
    Its apples and oranges.

    3. -again I also think that the universe could be constantly doubling.

    My point is that if it did double nothing really happened.

    Answer this:
    Right now the moon is about 384,000 KM from the earth.
    Say the universe doubled as a unit 2 minutes ago- which as you’ve said is very possible. How far is the moon now after the doubling?

  187. grandmuffti

    7/6/2005 at 4:51 am

    Ummn…you started this by saying that your experience confirmsthat everything has a cause. Muffti doesn’t understand what you mean unless it is that things work in regular, deterministic ways and that you expect that everything will be governed by such causes and effects. In order for their to be inderministic causation, there would have to be indeterminisitic laws. If that’s the case, then fine, but Muffti doesn’t understand what would lead you to be believe that everything has a cause rather htan thinking that things are basically random.

    OK, sorry that you didn’t like the analogy. Muffti thought you were doubting the possibility of an infinite number of objects. Muffti isn’t changing the amount of ‘star mass’ in existence: if it’s infinite, it’s infinite. Muffti doesn’t understand what you mean by ‘changing’ the total star mass. How do you know that it isn’t infinite? Why should it be limited to the finite?

    Muffti still has no idea what you mean by something could double AND everything could stay teh same. Sure the proportions would stay the same, but that doesn’t mean that things owuldn’t be double as far from eachother as they used to be. They would just all be double as far.

    Muffti takes it that the moon would be 768,000 km from the earth after the doubling. But this is probably a trick question and Muffti is pretty tired…

  188. Joe Schmo

    7/6/2005 at 10:15 am

    All Im saying is that to me it doesn’t make sense that just because yesterday this chair was here that today it should be here – something has to be ‘creating’ or ‘making’ it be here today. Yester day and today have nothing to do with each other except that we are used to it being like that but they are realy independant.

    Thats why i like to make an analogy to a flame on the stove taht must continually be powered by fual – so too this chair.

    At the same time unlike the physical fuel what is powering the chair is not ‘locked in’ to powering it.

    So a better analogy is you maintaining a picture in your mind. lets say you are imagining a nice river. So long as you imagine it the thought is there. If you stop the thought disappears. You are not ‘forced’ to imagine the river- you could imagine soimething else.

    So is it with G-d and this world. So long as He ‘imagines’ and ‘powers’ the world it exists – Should He stop it disappears.

    regarding stars- I can’t imagine the meaning of an infinite amount of stars at one givn moment. At one moment no more stars are being produced – at that moment we can theoretically count whatever stars there are.
    I think you are comparing ideas such as space, which people use the term ‘infinite’ for, to to actual items. You are doing this because you are viewing space as a thing but its really just a relationship. This connected to the next point.

    space point:
    It wasn’t meant as a trick question but it turned out that way. i figured that you would for sure say 384,000 KM which I would say.

    I think even after doubling the universe it is still 384,000 KM. What is the definition of space/distance?
    distance = velocity * time

    For instance if we can travel at 10 mile per hour and it takes one hour to go from point a to point b then:

    distance=10 mph * 1 hour ==> 10 mils

    Say the world doubled and distances doubled and we travel faster (being bigger and so that we can’t notice that the world dooubled).
    Now we travel at 20 miles per hour and it therefore travel should take half the time:

    distance=20 MPH * 1/2 hour==>10 miles

    Notice that the distance stayed the same becasue the whole meaning of distance (in any physics book) is a proportion. Obviously if ‘all’ the variables change together the independant variable (distance) remains the same.

    Thats why the moon will still be 384,000 KM away.

    distance to moon= speed of spacecraft * time it takes to get there.
    Work it out.

  189. grandmuffti

    7/6/2005 at 11:17 pm

    heheh…Muffti sees what you mean. Muffti was thinking, however, that what you are saying simply presupposes relationalism about space time. If we define KM as 1000 units of lengthy identical to the meter stick, then the moon is 384,000 KM away and doubling would make it double that distance away. Of course, to compensate for that, we would have to make rates of travel much faster so, as you point out, we would be travelling 20 miles per hour and thus will take exactly the same amount of time. But, Muffti agrees…if you definte distance as velocity * time, then you are definitely right. Muffti isn’t sure, however, why distance should be taken as primitive and then we could define speed in terms of distance and time travelled.

    That’s a nice analogy about a river in my head. Muffti doesn’t think the world works that way. He more thinks that once matter is there, nothing keeps it there. It just is. But at least Muffti sees the picture you are working with better.

    As for stars, Muffti still doesn’t know what you are talking about. Say that space is infinite; and now say that there are stars 10 miles apart form eachother forever. What is conceptually incoherent about that? Muffti agrees that it woudl be wierd for there to be a finite number of stars and then, at the next moment, an infintie number of stars (though he thinks it is perfectly possible, just wierd). So there would allways have had to have been an infinite number of stars he guesses. So what? Muffti still isn’t really understanding your concern. sorry.

  190. Joe Schmo

    7/7/2005 at 10:49 am

    Well I just don’t know of any analogy of something that we do know to be with infinite mass at one moment. In either case its something to think about.

    “That’s a nice analogy about a river in my head. Muffti doesn’t think the world works that way. He more thinks that once matter is there, nothing keeps it there. It just is. But at least Muffti sees the picture you are working with better.”
    –This idea of G-ds control and power over this world how I explained it don’t think that I’m just making this up as we go. This is how we always understood it. Ill tell you an interesting story I heard about R. Shlomo Carlebach. The point of the story was to show how he took children’s questions very seriously and how kind he was. nevertheless its instructive.

    A child (who came with his parent) asked him: “Are we real or are we just in G-d’s dream?”
    Shlomo told him that he has to think about that question.

    On another occasion when he saw the parent he said that he thought about it and he should tell his child that
    “We are real ‘because’ we are in G-d’s dream.”

  191. grandmuffti

    7/7/2005 at 9:57 pm

    heh…that is a sweet story.

    OK, this has gone on quite a while; let muffti make a point that may help clear up a bit of (my) confusion.

    We started oh-so-long-ago with you making the claim that everything is the world is caused, and that you know this from casual observation of how the world works. You used this to argue that there must be something that does all the causing since everything that is physical needs a cause. (Let’s set aside the technical disagreements about whether everything needs the same cause.)

    However, the way you have been putting it is that everything needs not just a cause that brings it about but something that suistains it against non-existence (hence the analogy to the gas that ‘powers’ the flame).

    This describes a kind of dependance that you cannot be familiar with from mere observation: you have never observed anything ‘fall out of existence’ or ‘come into existence’ ex nihilo. One really couldn’t observe this kind of dependance. In particular , all the causal dependance you observe is temporal in nature; but the sort of dependance you are interested in is, in your words, at an instant. But how can you observe THAT sort of dependance? This is perhaps teh source of Muffti’s confusion.

  192. themiddle

    7/7/2005 at 10:08 pm

    If I had my editing powers back, I could fix typos.

  193. Joe Schmo

    7/7/2005 at 11:40 pm

    I’m trying to remember where I said and to what I was refering when I said about casual observation. Possibly I was talking about why I say that the force is omnipresent since we observe that magnets and radio frequencies -and most everything- are everywhere and different objects influence each other even accross the universe (like ‘the force’ – even star wars has its depth).

    Regarding just the point that something physical must have a cause and that the power causing must be continuous- that is not from observation. Thats conceptual: since today and yesterday are really independant (all time can be divided and all moments are mutually independant) therefore just because something was ‘created’ ex nihilo yesterday what is making it still be here today?
    By the way we say this concept in the blessings before the Shema:
    “…and in His goodness He renews every day continually the works of creation…”

    -so you are right -its not because I observe it and if I were to observe it how would I know that it didn’t just become ‘invisible’ like the air but is really always existing- so I’m not even sure if I would be able to tell anyway.

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  195. shezza

    8/21/2005 at 5:18 am

    I suggest that for all those who are interested to read schroeder’s ” Genesis and the big bang “. It is compulsory reading for people interested in the topic. There is no contradiction between. science and Torah. If there is then science still has to catch up. I would like to remind everyone that when science said the earth was flat, the Torah indicated it was a sphere.
    Even the issue of dinasours is covered. In Genesis 1:21 a category of animal that is mentioned is Taninim Gedolim. Cross referencing the word Tanin in another place it is mentioned in the bible indicates that Taninim Gedolim means large reptiles. The other place that the word Tanin is mentioned is in Exodus 3, the story of Mosh and the staff turning into a snake. In Exodus 4:3 when moshe threw the staff, at Hashem’s request, to the ground it turned into a snake. The word used was Nachash. When confronting Pharoh Moshe threw the staff to the ground it transformed into a snake again but the term used is Tanin (Exodus 7:10) a couple of vereses later when Hashem asks Moshe to confront Pharoh at the Nile the staff turns into a snake again but the term used is Nachash Exodus 7:15).
    From this we can infer that in the bible Tanin is a generic name for reptile.
    If I am not mistaken the “Taninim Gedolim” were already extinct before man was created. Thereby answering themiddles son’s question about dinosours and there creation.
    With regards to keeping kosher be honest with him but the way I explained it to my kids was that just like a washing machine comes with a manual on how best to maintain it, so to did our body and soul, the Torah. If we want to maintain our washing machine in the best possible condition for as long as possible then we follow the instruction manual. That does not mean that we cannot do things differently to the manual but we expect that the manufacturer of the washing machine to know how to treat the machine the best to get the most use out of it. So to the Torah and our body and soul.
    PS grandmufti be gentle with me, this is my first time

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  197. joe

    1/13/2006 at 4:58 pm

    Sorry i’m so late to this conversation. i hope my being a Christian doesn’t disqualify me. But the dinosaurs… i understand that every time the hebrew word for “day” is used in other places in the Torah it absolutely represents a 24-hour period, so i would assume Genesis would be no different. i believe G-d created all matter in six 24-hour periods, including dinosaurs which are referenced in Job as behemoth (brontosaur?) and leviathan (plesiosaur). Besides, i don’t think the holy books talk about giraffes, but i’m pretty sure they existed and were known about in those days…
    Anyway, sorry for the interruption.

  198. themiddle

    1/14/2006 at 3:57 am

    There are many rabbis who disagree that “day” in the Torah represents 24 hours, Joe.

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  200. avi

    10/26/2006 at 7:43 pm

    if the world was created 6000 years ago how did scientists date dinosaurs billions and billions of years ago

  201. grandmuffti

    10/26/2006 at 8:27 pm

    TM is right, Joe. Those of Muffti’s ilk call them ‘desperate to save congency in the face of massive empirical evidence to the contrary’.

  202. themiddle

    10/26/2006 at 10:37 pm

    Why do we have to read it literally. Perhaps a “day” for the one and only God is actually a couple of billion years…

  203. grandmuffti

    10/27/2006 at 12:40 am

    We don’t have to read it literally. You don’t have to read anything literally. Why, though, do we get all stodgy and insist on reading things like the laws of Kashrut equally metaphorically? Why take anything in the book literally?

    (Muffti grants that this is a bit facile – there are plenty of careful textual analysis desinged to show that none of early Genesis is meant literally. But Muffti thinks that it’s rather strange to treat things that we find out are probably literally false as non literal where it looks like we do so precisely becuase the literal interpretation looks absurd in teh light of new evidence…)

  204. themiddle

    10/27/2006 at 1:57 am

    I think there are folks who read both the creation story and the laws of kashrut quite literally. Perhaps we can get Kelsey in here to tell us about Aish and their apparently creationist views that take a literal view of the Torah.

  205. themiddle

    11/19/2006 at 8:35 pm

    I think one of the arguments creationists make is that the evidence we have is actually “evidence” because we weren’t there and the scientific theories are conjecture and unprovable.

  206. ramon marcos

    11/19/2006 at 11:02 pm

    Ben David hit the nail on the head. Modern observant Jews like himself can tell the difference in the Pentateuch between what were G-d’s laws as delivered through Moses and what was intended to be parable.

    Creationists, on the other hand can’t tell the two apart. They don’t have the same methods of studying Torah that most modern religious Jews do. So they fumble about trying to reconcile science with their overly literal King James bible interpretation. So, as non-Orthodox, I can understand how the commandments, laws of Kashrut and other laws governing how to live one’s daily lives can be interpreted from a more literal Pshat viewpoint, while creation from a homiletical Drash stance.

    It’s not so much about connecting science and religion as it is science and faith.

  207. themiddle

    11/20/2006 at 1:09 pm

    So does that mean that as science changes and discovers new things, modern observant Jews can tell the difference about more things?

  208. themiddle

    11/22/2006 at 1:30 am

    With a rough consensus that the grand stories of evolution by natural selection and the blossoming of the universe from the Big Bang are losing out in the intellectual marketplace, most of the discussion came down to strategy. How can science fight back without appearing to be just one more ideology?

    “There are six billion people in the world,” said Francisco J. Ayala, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Roman Catholic priest. “If we think that we are going to persuade them to live a rational life based on scientific knowledge, we are not only dreaming — it is like believing in the fairy godmother.”

    “People need to find meaning and purpose in life,” he said. “I don’t think we want to take that away from them.”

    Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University known for his staunch opposition to teaching creationism, found himself in the unfamiliar role of playing the moderate. “I think we need to respect people’s philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong,” he said.

    “The Earth isn’t 6,000 years old,” he said. “The Kennewick man was not a Umatilla Indian.” But whether there really is some kind of supernatural being — Dr. Krauss said he was a nonbeliever — is a question unanswerable by theology, philosophy or even science. “Science does not make it impossible to believe in God,” Dr. Krauss insisted. “We should recognize that fact and live with it and stop being so pompous about it.”

    That was just the kind of accommodating attitude that drove Dr. Dawkins up the wall. “I am utterly fed up with the respect that we — all of us, including the secular among us — are brainwashed into bestowing on religion,” he said. “Children are systematically taught that there is a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from scripture, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real evidence.”

    By the third day, the arguments had become so heated that Dr. Konner was reminded of “a den of vipers.”

    “With a few notable exceptions,” he said, “the viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?”

    His response to Mr. Harris and Dr. Dawkins was scathing. “I think that you and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side,” he said, “and that you generate more fear and hatred of science.”

    Dr. Tyson put it more gently. “Persuasion isn’t always ‘Here are the facts — you’re an idiot or you are not,’ ” he said. “I worry that your methods” — he turned toward Dr. Dawkins — “how articulately barbed you can be, end up simply being ineffective, when you have much more power of influence.”

    Chastened for a millisecond, Dr. Dawkins replied, “I gratefully accept the rebuke.”

    In the end it was Dr. Tyson’s celebration of discovery that stole the show. Scientists may scoff at people who fall back on explanations involving an intelligent designer, he said, but history shows that “the most brilliant people who ever walked this earth were doing the same thing.” When Isaac Newton’s “Principia Mathematica” failed to account for the stability of the solar system — why the planets tugging at one another’s orbits have not collapsed into the Sun — Newton proposed that propping up the mathematical mobile was “an intelligent and powerful being.”

    It was left to Pierre Simon Laplace, a century later, to take the next step. Hautily telling Napoleon that he had no need for the God hypothesis, Laplace extended Newton’s mathematics and opened the way to a purely physical theory.

    “What concerns me now is that even if you’re as brilliant as Newton, you reach a point where you start basking in the majesty of God and then your discovery stops — it just stops,” Dr. Tyson said. “You’re no good anymore for advancing that frontier, waiting for somebody else to come behind you who doesn’t have God on the brain and who says: ‘That’s a really cool problem. I want to solve it.’ ”

    “Science is a philosophy of discovery; intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance,” he said. “Something fundamental is going on in people’s minds when they confront things they don’t understand.”

    He told of a time, more than a millennium ago, when Baghdad reigned as the intellectual center of the world, a history fossilized in the night sky. The names of the constellations are Greek and Roman, Dr. Tyson said, but two-thirds of the stars have Arabic names. The words “algebra” and “algorithm” are Arabic.

    But sometime around 1100, a dark age descended. Mathematics became seen as the work of the devil, as Dr. Tyson put it. “Revelation replaced investigation,” he said, and the intellectual foundation collapsed.

    He did not have to say so, but the implication was that maybe a century, maybe a millennium from now, the names of new planets, stars and galaxies might be Chinese. Or there may be no one to name them at all.

    Before he left to fly back home to Austin, Dr. Weinberg seemed to soften for a moment, describing religion a bit fondly as a crazy old aunt.

    “She tells lies, and she stirs up all sorts of mischief and she’s getting on, and she may not have that much life left in her, but she was beautiful once,” he lamented. “When she’s gone, we may miss her.”

  209. themiddle

    11/22/2006 at 1:32 am

    That came from the NY Times article, “A Free for All on Science and Religion.”


  210. themiddle

    1/22/2007 at 2:49 am

    I’ve just come across this story about a “creationism” museum that is opening soon in Kentucky. In this museum, dinosaurs roam the Earth…together with Adam and Eve.

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  212. themiddle

    1/23/2007 at 2:52 pm

    Related conversation: Moses Never Existed.

  213. themiddle

    2/22/2007 at 4:14 am

    I believe it’s time.

  214. themiddle

    2/22/2007 at 4:15 am

    Yup, it was time.

  215. andrec

    2/23/2007 at 4:46 pm

    The dinosaurs owned the tree of knowledge.
    So…When Adam and Eve ate from it they were eaten ALIVE. When God saw what had happen, he only had Cain to carry own, (I don’t know why he didn’t create another Adam and Eve…nonetheless, according to the Genesis Cain lived for some 900 years.

  216. themiddle

    2/24/2007 at 1:40 pm

    Uh, yeah. Sure. 🙄

  217. charles

    4/5/2007 at 9:34 am

    Most explanations that seek to harmonize the fossil record with the biblical text arise not out of Orthodoxy in any of their forms–but out of Fundamentalist Christiantity (read: Protestant).

    Do not look at the Bible as a record of what really happened–especially concerning the primeval history. Instead regard the Torah as a community’s sense of its own story.

    And for the record, In the Creation stories, from Genesis 1-3, there are 2 creation stories! There are 2 different stories…the seam is Genesis chapter 2 verse 4. The first half of Genesis 2:4 is the coda (conclusion to the first creation story) and the 2nd half is the prologue to the 2nd creation story. these stories are TOTALLY different! they even have different names of G-d. The first creation stories happen in 7 days. Humans are created last. The second story happens in 1 day, and humans are created first. The 2nd creation story–only ONE human is created…and later a woman is created from his side.

    The creation stories also are not that important in the Bible–just to Pauline Christianity and / or Rabbinic Judaism.

  218. ayal

    4/21/2007 at 9:22 pm

    When G-d created animals, the Torah mentions “teenim gdolim.” although when this is just read alone, teenim’s translation is not known. However, Moshe’s staff turned into a teenim. It is believed that teenim means reptiles and teenim gdolim means large reptiles. Dinosaur literally means large reptile. Therefore the Torah actually tells us that Dinosaurs came before humans.

  219. Danielle

    4/28/2007 at 8:35 am

    Dr. Schroeder’s daughter was my camp counselor! Hurray. Really cool theory about creation. I believe it says that we haven’t hit the seventh day yet, and we’re still in creation, waiting for “Shabbat,” which will be the Messiah.

    “a very very vague interpertation of a lecture I heard at a Discovery seminar by a man named Dr. Schroeder. He wrote a book called ‘Genesis and the Big Bang’”

  220. joe clark

    8/23/2007 at 10:13 am

    People!! The bible was created by flesh and blood human beings. It was used to control primative people at that time. Some religious people believe the bible is the Wisdom of God not the word due to humans do what is in their best interests at the time. Did you know that there were over 100 gospels written, but they were disgarded and ignored because they did not fit into the framework.

  221. Ellie

    9/25/2007 at 10:04 pm

    I teach in a Jewish day school in 6th grade, and I was going over Parshat Breishit with my students today, when I discovered that they are all very troubled about dinosaurs. Many of them had heard from their “English” teachers that dinosaurs certainly existed, and from their “Hebrew” teachers that dinosaurs did not exist.
    I don’t think they’ve learned much about the big bang and evolution, but when the school system presents something like dinosaurs in a secular curriculum, there should be a systematic and carefully thought-out curriculum about addressing the issues. Every girl in my class had a very strong opinion about whether or not dinosaurs, in fact, existed.
    I want to commend you for bringing up this conversation and suggest that we need a better method of teaching complicated subjects like these to kids who are younger with less-developed and less sophisticated intellects. Any ideas?

  222. Collin Merenoff

    9/30/2007 at 12:12 pm

    I don’t think we should blame ourselves for the conflict between the Torah and evolution. This is stirred up by the IDN and the Wedgists, and I highly doubt there is even one Jew among them. I think a good way to approach the issue would be to explore the evolving meaning of the word “theory”, considering that “theos” is Greek for G-d.

  223. Johnathan

    10/7/2007 at 8:28 am

    I always wondered if time was measured differently as you look at the ages of people and births. However it showed a steady decline versus my dad was 800 and than all his sons died at 100. So if time was measured different than maybe but I don’t think it conflicts with Torah.

    I remember seeing an interesting theory on carbon dating being incorrect. Wish I bookmarked that.

    The only other thought of how Dinos didn’t exist is by a concept that may not be orally spoken about. Anyone agree?

  224. Shelly

    10/8/2007 at 12:14 pm

    I think you would find the book “The Science of God” helpful for this question. Geral Schroder, the author, explains that time is literally not the same now as it was at the creation of the universe. As our universe expands, the dimension of time changes as well- it has to do with relativity. So if you could stand at the point of the creation of the universe and calculate the time that passed until the creation of man- and remember, you are looking at all of this happening FROM THE POINT OF THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE- then what we all calculate as the passed 15 billion years (and this calculation is done from THIS point of time) would be perceived as 6 days! the bible has no contradictions with physics in this sense- 6 days are literal, but we must do the counting from the point of creation! We simply did not understand this until Einstein- who explained the physics of time. In that sense, the dinosaurs- and strangely enough- EVERY OTHER THING(LIKE THE SUN AND MOON) AND ANY SPECIES DECRIBED WITH EVOLUTION- can actually be traced back to the expected day that they were created- if we take the changing of time into consideration- and this can be done when we calculate how many years-from OUR POINT IN TIME- each day indicates.

  225. themiddle

    10/8/2007 at 1:28 pm

    Freaky! I don’t know that I buy it, but it’s an interesting alternative theory. If I can find the time, I’ll seek out that book.

  226. themiddle

    10/8/2007 at 1:40 pm

    Heh, the Amazon reviews are interesting. You have 48 5 star reviews, but another 13 scathing 1 star reviews.

  227. Sarah

    10/8/2007 at 1:52 pm

    Some fun trivia, it were Medieval Jews that determined that Adam and Eve were created on 7 October 3761 BCE. Before them (those Medieval Jews, that is), Jewish scholars did all kinds of chronology calculations.
    cf. jewishencyclop...

  228. Jewish Mother

    10/8/2007 at 2:19 pm

    post 221 – it is sad that as CK would say the best minds are not always available today. Gevalt. There is no war between science and religion. When one is imagined, it amounts to limiting G-d which is religiously impossible.

    Einstein gave us elastic time. Why not use it? He went to a lot of trouble so it seems a pity to not use the fruits of his efforts. But that requires a big elastic mind and some work.

    “the acceleration of a falling body is 32 feet per second per second – help! That destroys my religious faith! Don’t tell anybody!”

    Why should any fact about nature destroy anybody’s religious faith?


    Wait until I get to my private theory, that Breishis is about how Creation is PERCEIVED by US, when we are born. First we see light, then we figure out the night-day rhythm, then we notice the animals on the crib bumpers, then we sort out mommy & daddy, then ….

    We might see religious teaching as not so much about nature as about US, how we are impacted. “That’s how it looks to YOU, that’s how it works for YOU,” says G-d. “Astronomy and microbes are great, but what about how it all impacts YOU?”

  229. Collin Merenoff

    10/18/2007 at 11:58 pm

    From what I’ve read about Schroeder, he has some serious mathematical errors.

    Relativity is not a license to set up coordinates in whatever way seems PC, frum, etc. The choice of coordinates is based on what’s mathematically simplest for a given problem.

  230. mike darnell

    5/4/2008 at 4:29 am

    This one is easy.

    You don’t confuse scientific fact with religious belief and that’s that.

    The bible is a story, an incredible story, held by some to be divinely inspired. It’s purpose is to inspire and educate.

    Electing to debase it by bringing it down to the level of mere scientific research is akin to critiquing Moby Dick for factual errors regarding the behavior of whales.

    Anyhoo… If you’d like to see an interpretation on the theme of Adam and Eve created by an Israeli artist (myself) please visit:

    Shavua Tov

  231. themiddle

    5/4/2008 at 10:34 am

    Mike, you should get out of your skin more and stop using such subtle colors. 😉

  232. mike darnell

    5/4/2008 at 12:58 pm

    Yo themiddle!

    I like it inside my skin – it kinda keeps all my organs from spilling all across the floor and making a mess.

    As for the colors…
    subtlety is not really my thing : )

    Here’s something a little darker…


  233. Pingback: Jewlicious » Dad, who was the third person on the planet?

  234. rod michael

    6/26/2010 at 9:30 am

    god created earth and us and everything ,love one another,but i will laugh a little at science,although 2 wrongs dont make a right ,yall talk about scientist and your college education or just being intelligent beings that god and jesus are fairy tales,well why can we drill in deep oceans but not stop that leak ,haha hit your knees and find some faith ,we christians might need a little help with this gulf of mexico/ scientific oil spill,BTW i dont have much faith in intellect,read acts in the bible or just keep talking about carbon 14 haha

  235. Nathan Nagelkerk

    10/5/2010 at 9:33 pm

    Hi, my name is Nathan Nagelkerk and I live in Grand Rapids, MI. My e-mail is servant119b@gmail.com.

    I figure dinosaurs came right before Adam and Eve 🙂

  236. piramida zdrowego zywienia

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    • ck

      9/2/2011 at 9:25 pm

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  237. lindsey

    9/6/2011 at 6:17 pm

    which insect started metamorphosis because i have a project about it and i wanna impress my teacher and i wanna put my question on there and know the answer and also i wanna a good grade and if i do i get to go eat a speicial breakfast with my daddy ’cause he said he’ll take me to restruant like the BEACON!!!!!!!!!

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