Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Babel Fish, God, and a Survey

Okay first take this survey that someone doing a psychological study on Orthodox childhood experiences and how they impact going OTD and staying on, wanted me to "disseminate".

Now for something completely different the Babel Fish!:

(Watch Videos if you don't know what a Babel Fish is) (philistine!)



Oh and and here is the old version:



Orthodox: God can't give us absolute proof of his existence or of Judaism because then we would have no Bechira Chophshit (free will)


Let's say we discovered a Babel Fish. After many years of scouring the oceans scientists finally found a Babel fish i.e. a creature so bizarrely and purposefully designed that it is impossible for it to have arisen from mere natural selection. Let's just say we found such a thing and there was scientific consensus that this was definitive proof for intelligent design.

I'm sure that the Orthodox world would be up in arms! I mean here you have it! Something which destroys free will, a cornerstone of Judaism, gone! I'm sure all the kiruv organizations would be giving long seminars trying to show that the Babel fish is but a product of chance! I'm sure some Rabbi would be put in cherem for even admitting the existence of this peculiar creature. The atheists would be touting this as another proof against God. Fundamentalists of all creeds would be demanding that we "teach the controversy" in our schools and give equal treatment to the theory of how the Babel fish is just another product of natural evolution.

For some reason I doubt it would work out like that. But I guess if you say that "God can't/won't take away our free will" then that's how it should really play out. Right?

P.S.

I always pronounced it "Bah-bel" they seem to pronounce it "Bay-bel". What is the correct pronunciation of Babel, as in Tower of Babel, in English?

13 comments:

G*3 said...

The whole free will argument is just a post-hoc explanation of why there isn’t obvious proof of God’s existence. There is no stand-alone reason to assume that God wants us to be able to choose. He seem mostly to want us to do as we’re told.

We probably don’t have free will anyway. There’s no way to separate our consciousness from all of the influences of our history, genetics, and environment. That we are self-aware doesn’t mean we have any more influence over the path our life takes than a ball has a choice about which path to take while rolling down a hill.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>The whole free will argument is just a post-hoc explanation of why there isn’t obvious proof of God’s existence.

Yeah that was my (sarcastic) point. If we had a nice Babel fish no one would dream of saying that. (And people would stop giving Israelis weird looks when they tell their kids to "DIE" in supermarkets)

kisarita said...

I was very enthusiastic about taking the survey until I actually saw it. There's barely any room to express your own point of view, mostly you're just given A-B-C-D choices, all invented by the researcher, to choose from.

(Kind of like growing up frum is all about).

Yeah I know that's what passes for psychological research nowadays but I don't buy it.

Shilton HaSechel said...

Yeah I kinda didn't like the limited scope of the questions.

(I wanted tons of questions about why you think Orthodoxy is a load of BS and things about intellectual objections to Orthodoxy.)

I added a long explanation in the text box.

JewishGadfly said...

I'd think a lot of people who use this type of explanation also invoke the "Kuzari argument" for justify Judaism. Aren't the two mutually exclusive? How could the whole nation witness God if God doesn't perform revelations because it would hamper free will?

More to the point is the fact that despite supposedly seeing a clear revelation of God, the people reportedly sinned severely and were punished multiple times through their sojourn in the desert. This is reportedly after direct revelation, manna falling from the sky, etc. And mere evidence for God's existence would take away our free will? (It doesn't answer the question to assert "their minor transgressions were taken more seriously by God because they were on such a high level," because the same could have been true of us.)

>That we are self-aware doesn’t mean we have any more influence over the path our life takes than a ball has a choice about which path to take while rolling down a hill.

Well, I'll beg to differ slightly about the choice of words there. A ball can't choose a path to go down, whereas a robot, on the other hand, could choose a path based on what would be best or worst for it. That doesn't mean the robot has "free will" in a purely unconstrained, uncaused way (which I doubt anyone would actually want if they thought it through)--the robot is doing exactly what it was engineered to do--but it also isn't the same level as the ball rolling, IMHO. It's a sort of compromised, compatibilist, everyday "freedom of choice" without literal metaphysical free will.

gamzoo said...

I pronounce it "Bah-bel"

MKR said...

Tomayto, tomahto, Baybel, Bahbel,
Let's call the whole thing off.

--Ira Gershwin (paraphrased)

Nearly all Biblical names were introduced into English centuries ago and underwent changes that reflect the shift in English vowels in the 15th and 16th centuries. So we say, e.g., "Abraham" and "Jacob" with "ay" and not "ah," "Isaac" with "ie" and not "ee," and so on. The pronunciation of "Babel" with "ay" follows the same rule. The practice of pronouncing it in English with "ah" is a comparatively recent development.

Shilton HaSechel said...

'tis the great vowel shift you refer to?

MKR said...

'Tis indeed, me lad.

G*3 said...

> A ball can't choose a path to go down, whereas a robot, on the other hand, could choose a path based on what would be best or worst for it.

Yes, the ball has no input at all to the path which it takes, but that’s the whole point. The robot following its programming to change its path is really no different than the ball hitting a bump or a twig and changing its path. Both are constrained by laws outside their control, whether those laws are just physics or physics + programming.

JewishGadfly said...

I don't mean to deny the similarities between the two cases--there is a form of determination for both--but I think there is also a noteworthy and important difference. The ball can only proceed based on causes, whereas the robot or person can proceed based on reasons. This seems like a significant difference to me.

Puzzled said...

The whole thing is rather silly. What about the whole "Sinai" thing?

Lisa said...

There is no "proper pronunciation" of transliterations. You should check out "Asimov on the Bible". He has a pronunciation guide in it, to make sure people pronounce the "s" in Isaiah like a "z". It's (unintentionally) hilarious.

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