Friday, 9 March 2012

It's not Just Torah It's Science!

Nathan Aviezer wrote a book called In the Beginning: Biblical Creation and Science

Then Mark Perach from talk reason wrote a critique of the book on talk reason.

Now on Hirhurim Aviezer wrote a response to Perach. (Only took him about 12 years...)

Ok now that you're all caught up let me say a few thoughts.

Aviezer's book has a lot of different things in it but one that really get on my nerves is the assertion that there is correspondence between the scientific theory of the Big Bang and the Biblical account of Creation. (i.e. the universe has a beginning in both accounts) This is a silly assertion not because the Big Bang isn't true (which seemed to be Perach's assertion, strangely enough...) even if its proven beyond a doubt its correspondence with the Genesis story is completely irrelevant. Because:

What about all the things in the Torah that do not correspond with science? Like men living for thousands of years? Global floods? Oh yeah what about the world and everything in it being created in six days! I'm sure there are explanations for these things, maybe they're allegorical etc. but it seems weird to boldly claim that the Torah corresponds with science because the first verse - sorry, the first verse and nothing else - corresponds with science.

This is classic sharpshooter fallacy. 

Any man could have sat in the ANE and written a book about demons and goblins and wars between Gods. And maybe this man would have written about big dragons with long necks. And then suddenly a bunch of idiots would be claiming that this is an account of dinosaurs! Oh the correspondence with science! How edifying!

Anyone writing a long fanciful account about creation and giants and who knows what else has a chance of saying something true. This does not mean the author knew that he was saying something true.

It's essentially a win win for adherents to these types of books.

If something in the holy book does not correspond with science: then it's an allegory or a moshol or who knows.

If something in the holy book DOES correspond with science: then we win! Our book knew science before science new science. Hurray!

You simply cannot write a holy book that doesn't correspond with science because there's always the allegory technique and every now and then you might stumble upon a bit of science and just make people believe.


SQ said...

"the assertion that there is correspondence between the scientific theory of the Big Bang and the Biblical account of Creation. (i.e. the universe has a beginning in both accounts)"

Dawkins had a funny response to that, saying he'd be more impressed if the Bible had gotten something right that didn't have a coin-flip's odds of being right by chance.

GarnelIronheart said...

The only reason this has become such an important issue is because the ahteoskeptics made it an important issue.  Until recently Jewish tradition allowed both a literal or an allegorical reading of the first chapters of Bereshis.  It was only when the whole "But we say it's not true!" crowd came along that religion was forced to response with an attempt at matching the Torah's account with science's account.  But it's an irrelevant need because the Torah isn't a book about history or science, it's a book about morality.  It's teaching entirely different lessons than a science or history textbook would.

tesyaa said...

Until recently Jewish tradition allowed both a literal or an allegorical reading of the first chapters of Bereshis.

No, until recently no one would question the creation story or the traditional understanding about the age of the universe because there was no reason to think the world WASN'T less than 6000 years old or wasn't created in 6 days.    (With few exceptions.)  What makes you think it wasn't heresy to deny the Torah's literal accounts?

lsd said...

It may not be a science textbook but if it was written by G-D, it should not have any mistakes.

GarnelIronheart said...

Because the idea that the Earth is ancient is a few centuries old now while the "Protestant" view of Genesis as a reaction to it is a mostly 20th century phenomenon.

Ksil said...

The "idea" is old....but it wasnt widely accepted until very recently. So, you are wrong, garnel

littlefoxling said...

Wait. I don't understand.  So, is he saying that all religions that believe in a created universe are true?

littlefoxling said...

So it's a book about morality that believes in slavery, genocide, racism, sexism, homophobia xenophobia, and religious intolerance?

E said...

It's so funny how Dawkins turns one of the major questions against atheism on its head. The entire question of whether the universe has a beginning or not is just a matter of flipping a coin. Right...

The question of whether the universe had beginning or not is an old age debate with extremely significant theological ramifications. Aristotle's view of an eternal universe was finally refuted. (Or close to refuted. Perach and others can't accept a created universe because creation clearly points to a Creator).

Religionists aren't the only apologists.

E said...

1) There's a major theological problem by claiming that Bereishit is supposed to teach us science. It would mean that nobody understood what Bereishit was saying for the past 3000+ years and only now that we have modern science can we truly appreciate what it means. But now that we have modern science we don't need the Torah to teach us it. This is what I find most problematic with Aviezer's work (and the forced readings that are required to make Torah and science fit).

2) Rambam and others did understand Bereishit in a non-literal manner a long time ago.

3) GarnelIronHeart is right. The Torah is not a book of science. It's a book teaching us how to live a Godly life.

4) Give credit where credit is due. The Torah's view that a single God created the universe is radical. No other ANE writings describe creation as the Torah does. It is the only text to claim that a single God created everything. The other ANE texts truly sound ridiculous to the modern ear. God X got into a fight with god Y which created Z, etc. Nature is more powerful than the gods. No god is in complete control. These texts really do sound ridiculous to the modern ear.
The Big Bang discovery was also a rare, yet significant victory for the Bible (especially against atheists).

You'll like this quote by Hermann Grunkel (from Chaim Navon's Genesis and Jewish Thought,
"It is best to understand the opening verse as a principle clause: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." What a mighty statement! At the very outset, Scripture sets down, simply but forcefully, the dogma that God created the world. No other statement in the creation sagas of the other nations can compare to the opening statement of the Hebrew Bible. Everything that follows comes to explain this statement."

IMO, the best work on Torah vs Science is: The Challenge of Creation by Natan Slifkin.

littlefoxling said...

I think he is just saying that since there are only two possibilities, it wouldn't be crazy if they got it right by coincidence.  It's not like they correctly predicted the gravitational constant or something; the odds of doing something like that by chance would be virtually nil.

E said...

The reason you don't understand is because you didn't read the article. Aviezer never made any such claim (or anything that even slightly resembles such a claim).

E said...

I think Dawkins has a problem and thinks a good way to get out of it is leitzanut.

Ksil said...

"it's a book teaching us how to live a Godly life."

When people say stuff like this i wonder if they have ever read the chumash...

E said...

When you make a comment like that I understand why your name is Ksil.
Perhaps you could elaborate on why you think the Torah is not a book teaching morality, Godliness, etc.
(I'm not so interested to hear whether you think the Torah got it right or not. I'm interested to hear why you reject the opinion that the Torah is teaching man to be Godly).

I'll give you some of examples of what the Torah teaches us:
Monotheism (everywhere)
Good deeds are rewarded and bad deeds are punished (Noach)
Kindness (Avraham and Lot story)
Admitting mistakes (Yehuda and Tamar story)
etc. etc. etc.
Justice, looking after the poor and weak, etc. etc.
(And even things we might find hard to connect to today, such as korbanot, are clearly God-orientated. The last couple of parshiyot of Shemot and loads of Vayikra are all about the worship of God).

It doesn't matter who you are. Biblical critic, atheist, whatever. It's pretty clear that each story in the Torah teaches some kind of theological or moral message.

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