Thursday, August 11, 2011

American beauties

“We live in America, not Russia.” True dat. And that's why my wife's little cousin is taking a class in his school called “Russian Math”. You know, the one where they do the... times.

Go public education. Go American culture.

But then again, if you asked your average yeshiva bochur this question... See also: "We don't need no education". (I really should get to it and post the sources from our mesoira about the importance of learning science.)


micha said...

You do realize you posted a satire about teaching evolution in Public School? They're making fun of the number of Americans who care about pagent culture as part of being American, OT1H, and yet OTOH are Xian Fundamentalists who consider Creationism and Cosomogony+Evolusion to be competing scientific theories.

IOW, the video is likely ridiculing your own beliefs, or at least those of many people you respect, who believe Bereishis pereq 1 is literal, history, and comprehensible to a human mind.

micha said...

E.g. "Math is a 'theory' and not at all what the bible tells us"

Certified Ashkenazi said...

Whether or not this is a satire, I do think that people who say things like "Evolution is a theory and not at all what the Bible tells us" sound like idiots.

And I do think that Evolution must be taught in schools that decide to teach any science.

Then again, I don't believe there should be such a thing as public schools.

The video is certainly not ridiculing my own beliefs. I don't believe that Creationism is a scientific theory.

Certified Ashkenazi said...

But I do know plenty of people who ask whether bochrim should learn English. If I respect those people, I respect them not for this sort of beliefs...

(At the same time, I think Jewish kids should be taught Yiddish.)

micha said...

I am okay with evolution (meaning the whole shebang, including the Big Bang, inflation, the origin of stars, the earth, and actual evolution) in school, but then I follow the rov rishonim who don't assume beri'ah yeish mei'ayin was just under 5762 years ago. (Whether by inserting history between Bereishis 1 & 2, or by defining "yom" to be something incomprehensible to humans. Or, as the Ramban does, both.)

If they taught a historical claim that conflicted with my religious position, perhaps it would annoy me more.

What does bug me is when the science textbooks mention the word "design". Like "and therefore what looks like design is just..." That's already promoting a religious position. Asserting evolution without saying whether it's random or guided by a Creator is not.

Certified Ashkenazi said...

I hold that the world is 5771 old. At the same time, I hold that it looks billions of years old (or trillions?.. with the current inflation of the dollar and the budget, "billions" may not sounds like a number big enough) and that there were "evolutionary" processes that prepared the world for the stage, at which it was created during the Seven Days (there is also the Mabul... so, you can count the implementation of the "newest" design of the world from then if you want).

I don't believe that these things happened in Asiyah; I think they happened in the spiritual worlds, as a preparation for creation. (Since the point of creation of Asiyah is the avoida of Adam, it makes sense that Hashem would create the physical world at the stage ready for that avoida.)

I also think it's important to study the evidence of these processes and teach them to kids in schools. I think if people want to teach them in Jewish context (e.g., like the above), that's fine. I don't think kids should be ignorant. I definitely don't think they should be forcefully misinformed about the validity of scientific studies.

At the same time, I think the concept of design is so complicated that it's best left alone. It's very difficult to prove that something "looks like design", and in general, these conversations lead to circular arguments.

As an aside, most science textbooks are horrible. The more I know about a field, the more horrible they seem to me. (I.e., the worst ones are the Neuroscience ones.)

Certified Ashkenazi said...

Having said all that, if the video I posted is indeed fake, it's not a very good parody, because there is a fundamental difference between Math and science. We know Math not empirically.

Michael said...

Rov Rishonim?!?!?!
A few Spanish Rishonim say in some cases that the Agadeta is not binding when it contradicts empirical evidence.
To get from that to the notion that Rov Rishonim hold that the world is older than the Torah's account puts it, you need to make the following leaps.
1) That empirical evidence includes things derived by induction, even though modern thought teaches us that we should be very cautious when making assumptions like that.
2) That the account of Maaseh Breishis is included in "The Agadata", rather than Peshutoi Shel Mikra.
3) That the majority of Rishonim agree with the few that are quoted, despite the fact that all of Ashkenazi and Sefardi Hashkafa from the 16th century through the 19th century disagreed with the premise, making it likely that this view was not created in a vacuum, but that it was a commonly held view among Rishonim

micha said...

Uou're mistaken about how widespread belief that agadic stories need not be historical was among rishonim and for that matter, acharonim up through WWII.

But I won't dwell on that, because you erred about where I got the notion that rov rishonim believed in an ancient universe. I started with the rishonim themselves talking about maaseh bereishis. So, your entire argument is off in the wrong direction.

Numerous rishonim invoke the Medrash Rabba on boneh olamos umacharivan to insert time between beri'ah yeish mei'ayin (Bereishis 1:1) and Bereishis 1:2. This includes the the majority of the Qabbalistically inclined rishonim.

Then there are the rishonim who say that what passed for a "yom" wasn't time as we know it. The Bahir, the Ramban (at least, according to R' Dessler, MmE vol II pp 150-154, "Yemei Bereishis veYemai Olam"), R' Saadia Gaon, the Rambam (who holds it's six causal steps and not within time at all), the Ralbag, and even Rashi, if you look at 1:1 ("bereishis bara") and 2:4 (before the "davar acheir", which is a different topic) where he says there is no chronological sequence intended in Bereishis 1. The mequbalim, the philosophers and the pashtanim agree that the universe is older than 6 millenia -- what broader consensus do you need?

The idea that yeish mei'ayin to Adam took a week as we understand time didn't become the majority shitah until the non-Orthodox "Judaisms" provided proof of the dangers of such an approach to the relationship of miqra and science. But dangerous doesn't mean false.

Mor said...

I don't have access to MmE. Does Rav Dessler interpret Ramban on Chumash as implying that the days are not literal, or Ramban somewhere else as doing that? Where specifically?

mor said...

Those Rashis (and if I remember correctly a few others in the first perek) paint an interesting picture, but in no way can they be interpreted to mean "a day doesn't mean a day." That is simply not what Rashi is talking about at all.

micha said...

R' Dessler is writing on the Ramban on 1:3. I blogged a paragraph by paragraph summary. According to REED, time as we know it, as a linear flow, is a product of the human condition and thus not applicable before Adam.

Notice this isn't saying that "yom" is allegorical. A day is literally a day as we mean it in common usage. But we only experience and know of one tiny aspect of what a day is, and therefore really have no idea what the sheishes yemei bereishis were like. They were literally 6 days as well as literally billions of years as well as literally the subsequent 6 millennia.

Get ahold of a Michtav meiEliyahu and see.

Rashi tells you that the week of creation isn't describing a particular sequence. And if something created on the 3rd yom could have been created before something on the second yom, then Rashi can't possibly be referring to days as we generally think of them. Notice Rashi revisits the point on a posuq telling you of Hashem's conversation with Adam that occurred on the same yom as the creation of heaven and earth. Somewhere along the line, yom can't mean possibly mean day.

Also interesting in the Ramban's discussion of time between Bereishis 1:1 and 1:2. Notice he discusses the separation between the creation ex nihilo of chomer and -- now here he doesn't use the Jewish term, "tzurah", but the classical Greek nearest parallel, "hyle". There is much hidden in the Ramban trying for the connotation of Aristotle and Plato rather than that of our own mesorah, but I think the question is better than any answer. In any case, things only got their final form during sheishes yemei bereishis. They existed in earlier forms before then -- at least according to the Ramban.


Certified Ashkenazi said...

>In any case, things only got their final form during sheishes yemei bereishis. They existed in earlier forms before then -- at least according to the Ramban.

But doesn't this agree with the model that I mentioned: that all creation before the Six Days happened in a spiritual form (of which we see scars in a form of fossils, relationship between the species' genetics and morphology, geological records, etc.) and that during the Six Days — which happened 6771 years ago — the creation became physical?

Also: if the creation did not happen 6771 literal years from now, then wouldn't one say that a Kesuba (or a get) that mentions that date ("mi'briyas ha'oilam") is possul?

micha said...

Did you look at the Ramban d"h "Bereishis"? He talks about beri'ah of the physical stuff (bara) which gets form during the week (mikol melakhto asher asah). The Ramban gives you the term in Greek Natural Philosophy, hyle. This might even be why he didn't use the Jewish parallel, chomer.

The year is from Adam, the end of creation. That's why we increment the year number on Adam's birthday.

What is more relevant is that it's possible we got the years since then wrong anyway. Seder Olam is a tanna (R Yosi ben Chalafta), but there are machloqesei tannaim on many dates. But we say "leminyan she'anu monim kan", and yes, it is 5771 years since the end of creation "according to the count which we count here in..." regardless of whether or not that count is historically accurate.