Sunday, September 25, 2005

Warning: Category 5 Emunah Threat

Reconciling Breishis with Science is good, clean fun. It doesn’t rea

The idiots on Avodah can't seem to give up their Bittul Torah discussion on Evolution and the age of the Universe. This weeks prime offender is Simcha Coffer, the guy just doesn't give up, which is a shame, since the position he is not giving up is a moronic one. Here is a great quote from Coffer, clearly showing his lunatic opinions:

If you're going to contradict the scientists, you may as well go the whole way (i.e. the correct way IMO) and say that in truth they really have no evidence at all. Once you come to this realization, the necessity of reconciling vast periods of time with [Maase Breishit] becomes obsolete.

But some blame must go to Micha Berger too, for actually engaging this guy in serious discussion. Micha, is there really any point? Don't you have anything better to do? Don't you realize that Coffer (and Ostroff) are crazy fundamentalists? They are not interested in reason. They have their pre-formed ideological opinions and all the evidence in the world is not going to change their minds. Arguing with these fools is like arguing with mental patients.

In case you missed it, here is some advice for you Avodah guys. (This advice also applies to Rabbi Slifkin and the Kiruv Clowns too). A basic assumption of your mehalech should be that you accept established science. That's it. No discussion, not argument, no proofs required. You accept it and then you move on from there. If you need to explain why you accept it, then you are probably talking to the wrong audience.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Creation and Evolution Are A Problem

Warning: Category 5 Emunah Threat

Reconciling Breishis with Science is good, clean fun. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day if Adam and Noah were actual people or not, and it’s fun to speculate and debate wondrous peshatim about miracles and dinosaur extinctions and the like. One commenter here, Chaim, is convinced that if he can just put together the right collection of miracles, everything will work out. Currently he has figured out that the flood water wasn’t regular water, but was of course miraculous water, the kind of miracle water that doesn’t leave any damage to buildings or rock, though it does remove all traces of human life. We haven’t got to the end of his theory yet, but I assume at some point we will get to the miracle of the kangaroos magically hopping from the Ark all the way to Australia. When I told him he can’t just make up miracles like that, he responded ‘Yes I can, to answer questions’. All good fun, and highly entertaining too, especially for the Geek Orthodox. Even the Gedolim are not too bothered by all this.

A much bigger problem though is reconciling the rest of History with Orthodox Judaism. Starting with Yetzias Mitzrayim and ending around the year 500CE, there are two entirely different accounts of what actually happened. Most frum Jews are so shielded from academic scholarship that they take the entire OJ story for granted. They are aware that of course Reform and the Goyim don’t believe in Sinai, but they think that’s about it. Unfortunately modern scholarship dates what we now think of as Orthodox Judaism to the period of 0-500CE, in other words Chazal pretty much made up Torah sheBaal Peh as they were writing it down. One scholar even suggests that Rabbinic Judaism was created as a reaction against Christianity.

This is a much more difficult subject to get into. The Science around the creation and evolution of the world is well documented and well understood, and mostly accepted by all the world’s scientists. However the theories around the creation and evolution of Rabbinic Judaism are just that: mostly theories. It’s hard to determine what is fact, and what is theory. Each side is dogmatically entrenched in their own positions. Plus, this whole debate is mostly of interest only to historians interested in the evolution of Judaism. Orthodox Jews themselves mostly ignore this area of study, as they are content to just believe the standard frum account. This is in contrast to the Science & Torah issues where there has been a lot of interest over the years from all sides.

So what to do? This is below the radar of most kiruv organizations (which is probably a good thing), and I haven’t seen any material on it. I don’t even know where to start, and probably shouldn’t go there. But your fearless Godol will now go and read up on all this kefirah so you don’t have to. Book suggestions are welcome (but don’t tell the Rebbetzin).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

New! Myth/Moshol V2.0

Skins are great. You can take a boring, out-of-the-box interface such as Mozilla Firefox and add a cool skin to it, one which makes you feel much happier about using the product. In the same spirit, I now present Myth/Moshol Theory V2.0, now with skins!

Brisker Skin
Replaces the words ‘Myth/Moshol’ with ‘Halachik Construct’

Talmud Skin

Replaces the words ‘Myth/Moshol’ with ‘Aggadatah’

New Age Skin
Replaces the words ‘Myth/Moshol’ with ‘Breishis contains Spiritual Truth’

Humanistic Skin
Replaces the words ‘Myth/Moshol’ with ‘Breishis contains Moral & Ethical Truth’

Skeptical Skin
Replaces the words ‘Myth/Moshol’ with ‘Breishis contains a bunch of made up stories’

Cassuto Skin
Replaces the words ‘Myth/Moshol’ with ‘Jewish Mythology to counteract Sumerian Mythology'

In other words, skin it (or spin it) any way you like. But don't take it literally.

Brisker Myth/Moshol Theory

[Guest Post]

The approach that Torah is not a history book has always left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. However, after reading a significant portion of RYBS Ish Hahalachah, I now have a new perspective on the science/history vs religion issue. One needs to make a “brisker” type of distinction between “al pi din” and “metzius”. The object one sees through a prism is no less real than without a prism. Just as when we look at something through our eyes and a “visible spectrum” of light it appears different than if we could see the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Is any one view right or real? No just different perspectives. Halachah and Judaism looks at the world through its own prism, while science has its own view. Is any one view right or is either one real? No, they just use different perspectives.

Halachah expects us to view things through its own perspective. It has its own set of rules and regulations. Thus, salting meat will “remove” the blood, carrying an object 4 amos in a public place “removes” it from one domain to another domain, a bliah in a kli will make the food it comes in contact with imbued with a taam of the bliah if it's less than 24 hours old and the taam will be pogum if its more than 24 hours, an animal with a sign of treifah can not live etc. For an Orthodox Jew, the boundary provided by a “tsuras hapesach” is no less real than a solid wall. All these halachik constructs are not necessarily factual from a “metzius” perspective but they are 100% factual from a halachik perspective.

Mathematics is considered the “purest” sciences. Yet to a mathematician, so called “imaginary numbers” are no less real or useful than so called “real numbers”. The square root of a negative number is no less “real” or useful than is the square root of 4. Non-Euclidean geometry can be just as real as Euclidean geometry. Is any one view right or real? No they just use different perspectives. No wonder why, the Gra, one of the greatest Talmudic minds appreciated math so much. (I understand that R Moshe Feinstein z”tl also enjoyed solving complex calculus problems).

Similarly, the Torah wants us to view Breishis, Noach etc as if they were factual no less than any other halachik construct. They are no more mythical than imaginary numbers or laws of kashrus. Thus Shabbos IS the “seventh” day, Adam and Chavah WERE the first two people etc. By adopting this perspective we attain a Torah viewpoint of life. This perspective is important when considering the value/need to observe Shabbos, the value of a single human life etc. The question of “what really happened” is no more relevant [GH: I assume he means to Judaism, obviously it is relevant to Science] than what is the red stuff that exudes from a piece of salted meat. Halacha considers the liquid as “juice” and considers creation as having taken place in 7 days. When studying science we wear a scientific “hat” when living our lives as moral/halachik Jews we view things from a Torah perspective.

From time to time there may appear a seeming conflict between these two viewpoints. Of course, halacha has some flexibility in it, so an 8 month baby is now viable and the metzius/halacha has changed. Sometimes the halachah allows for a convergence of the metzius and the din sometimes they remain distinct. When that should happen is for the poskim to debate.

Makes sense to me. What do you think?

[GH: I think you are basically saying that it's a myth/moshol, but you don't want to use those words. And also that there are 'halachik' (or rather 'hashkafic') reasons why the Torah portayed things the way it does i.e. There are deep moral and spiritual lessons in the Torah's version of events, which is exactly what Myth/Moshol Theory says too. So I think this is ultimately the Myth/Moshol theory with a Brisker/RYBS spin on it. In other words, I like it!]

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Real Questions... Fake Answers

[Note: This post is not serious. Of course all these questions are very difficult ones. What bothers me about the Artscroll ad is that it makes it seem they have good answers, when of course they mostly don't. These are issues that we all struggle with every day, yet Artscroll makes it seem that we just need to buy this set of 6 CD's and all will be answered. Well, I will buy the set, but I don't have high expectations, except for lots of raw material to post about].

Real Questions... Real Answers
Answers to The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Judaism - A 6 CD-Rom Set (Windows only)

[6 CD's !!! I could do it in a few lines! See my comments below]

List Price: $59.99
Online Discount: 10%
You Pay Only: $53.99
Binding: Cd-Rom
Published: September 2005 by Association for Jewish Outreach Programs

Description:
Never in history have so many Jews had so many questions about their religion, their heritage and their identity. Good questions, honest questions, real questions. This unique CD set brings together twelve of the most highly regarded individuals in the Jewish world - people who for years have been addressing literally thousands of questions posed by thousands of real people, with real questions.

This interactive CD-ROM puts a wealth of expertise at your fingertips. Without a doubt, you too have been asked many of the questions dealt with - at the office, by a neighbor, friend or relative. You have done your best to answer, and now you can do even better. Real Questions, Real Answers will enable you to do just what you want to do - respond thoughtfully and effectively when an inquiring person asks you a good question - a question whose answer just might open up a whole new world to a questioning Jewish mind.

Prominent figures featured include HaRav Shmuel Kamanetzky, HaRav Noah Weinberg, Rav Mordechai Becher, Rav Beryl Gershenfeld, Rav Rueven Leuchter, Rav Yerachmiel Milstein and more...

Sample Questions:


  1. Isn't the idea that we are the Chose People elitist or even racist?
    [Elitist]
  2. Why does a man say the blessing of "shelo asani isha" while a woman says "sheasani kirtzono"?
    [Because Davening reflects the social norms of the 1st millenium (or earlier) when women were regarded as inferior]
  3. How can I believe in G-d when there is so much suffering in the world? How could G-d have allowed the Holocaust?
    [There is no answer except that we assume G-d evens everything out in the next world]
  4. What is G-d's attitude toward the non-Jew?
    [Presumably he loves them too. But traditional Judaism doesn't so much]
  5. Why should I marry a Jew?
    [The Halachah says you have to]
  6. Do you believe that Orthodox Judaism is the only valid form of Judaism? Aren't Conservative and Reform Judaism also valid expressions of the Jewish religion?
    [Judaism has had many sects over the years. Orthodox Judaism is a descendant of Rabbinic (Pharisee) Judaism which arose around the time of the destruction of the 2nd Temple. OJ believes that its form of Judaism is the most accurate.]
  7. Hypocrisy: Am I not worse off if I know and don't do than if I simply remain ignorant?
    [Yes, you will be worse off.]
  8. Why must women dress modestly?
    [To stop men staring at them and getting bad ideas]
  9. Won't Judaism stifle my individuality and creativity?
    [Orthodox Judaism might, other branches won't]
  10. How do I know the Torah was really given on Sinai?
    [You just have to have faith]
  11. How can observant Jews do bad things?
    [Very easily]
  12. Why did G-d choose the Jewish Nation?
    [According to the Jewish tradition, because G-d liked Abraham, though it's not very clear why. Presumably because he recognized G-d and had superior morals.]
  13. What is wrong with Christianity and Islam? What is the fundamental difference between them and Judaism?
    [According to OJ, their claims of revelation are lies, while our claims are true.]
  14. What if my partner intends to convert?
    [To what? Judaism?]

Monday, September 19, 2005

'Better' DNA out of fossil bones



Map shows first migratory routes taken by humans, based on surveys of different types of the male Y chromosome. "Adam" represents the common ancestor from which all Y chromosomes descended

Neanderthals evolve about 250,000 years ago
Their range extends from Europe to Central Asia and the Middle East
Modern humans leave Africa about 60,000 years ago and arrive in Europe around 40,000 years ago
By 27,000 years ago, the Neanderthals are extinct
Possible reasons include climate change and competition with modern humans

Research based on DNA testing of 10,000 people from indigenous populations around the world

Source: The Genographic Project

By Alison Ross
BBC News

Improved technologies for extracting genetic material from fossils may help us find out more about our ancient ancestors.

Scientists in Israel have just developed a new technique to retrieve better quality, less contaminated DNA from very old remains, including human bones. It could aid the study of the evolution and migration of early modern humans, as well as extinct populations such as our close relatives, the Neanderthals.

Many researchers would dearly love to get their hands on DNA samples from hominids further back in time - from those that lived 100,000 years ago or more - to find out how they were related to people alive today.

But fossil studies this far back in time have long been hindered by contamination with foreign genetic material and the problem of recovering long, intact DNA sequences.

The new method provides hope, however.

What's real?
"DNA gets everywhere. So when we're dealing with a sample and you find it's got human DNA in it - is that DNA from the fossil, or is it actually DNA from the person who unearthed it?" says Professor Chris Stringer, the head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, UK.

Also, DNA falls apart over the course of time. "It breaks up into very small fragments so it is quite technically complicated to put it all back together again," explains Dr Robert Foley, the director of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies at the University of Cambridge, UK.

Freezing provides the ideal preservation conditions. The most widely accepted oldest DNA yet isolated comes from 400,000-year-old plants found in ice in Siberia. But most specimens are not excavated from such places.

An improved technique for retrieving DNA from fossil bone, just published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), may help.

Dr Michal Salamon, from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and colleagues, showed that "crystal aggregates", small mineral pockets formed during fossilisation, can preserve DNA better than the rest of the bone.

They compared DNA extracted from these crystal aggregates with genetic material taken from untreated, whole-bone powder. The samples were taken from eight different modern and fossil bones.

They found better preserved, less contaminated DNA could be recovered from the isolated crystals. This approach, "significantly improves the chances of obtaining authentic ancient DNA sequences, especially from human bones", they told PNAS.

Commenting on the latest research, Dr Michael Hofreiter, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who helped decode 40,000-year-old nuclear DNA from a cave bear earlier this year, said: "It's possible; but there need to be more studies on more samples, and they need to show that you don't get human contamination of animal bones.

"Then I would believe that it is a breakthrough for ancient DNA research."

The big split

Scientists are hopeful the new technique will help them get at the DNA in the chromosomes of a cell - the nuclear DNA.

Ancient DNA research has so far mainly focused on mitochondria, the tiny "power-stations" of the cell. These exist outside of the nucleus and have their own DNA. And, although this information is very useful, it is more limited in its scope than that which could be obtained from nuclear DNA.

It is partly a question of sensitivity. "There's about 1,000 times more mitochondrial DNA than nuclear DNA in our cells, so it's much easier to pick up," explains Professor Stringer.

The mitochondrial DNA is inherited only through the egg - through females. This means it is a useful marker for tracing a line back into the past, as it has never been mixed with DNA from males.

"One of the most important discoveries from studying ancient mitochondrial DNA is the estimate of when humans diverged in evolution from the Neanderthals - around half a million years ago," according to Dr Foley.

Professor Stringer adds: "We've now got about 10 Neanderthal specimens of around 40-50,000 years old that have yielded DNA that is clearly distinct from anyone alive today."

This means scientists can be sure that it is ancient, not just modern DNA from contamination. It has also given them a measure of how different Neanderthals were from modern people. Neanderthals are three times as different from us as we all are from each other," says Professor Stringer.

Species debate

But there remains the hotly debated question of whether Neanderthals were a completely separate species to us. Professor Stringer says that they are if that assessment is based on studying their bone anatomy.

However, the evidence from mitochondrial DNA is somewhat ambiguous. "The mitochondrial DNA on its own can't tell us if we're a distinct species," he explains. "It depends what mammal you take. There are some species where the difference in mitochondrial DNA between us and Neanderthals would say they were a different species. "Whereas in chimpanzees, our closest relative, you could contain the variation between us and Neanderthals in a single species alive today in Africa."

Scientists need to recover better DNA from our fossils, especially the nuclear DNA. "Each gene has a separate evolution so to understand Neanderthals properly we will need different bits of their DNA to see if they're all telling us the same story," he adds.

Population movements

The male sex chromosome (the "Y") is useful for tracking male inheritance, since males inherit their Y chromosome only from their father.

Using both mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA from people alive today, complex pathways have been mapped for how modern humans got to where they are - but there are problems.

Dr Mim Bower, an ancient DNA researcher at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research in Cambridge, UK, gives an example.

"Using modern DNA we see a different pattern of settlement in the Pacific islands between men and women - the mitochondrial DNA patterns show a different migration pattern to the Y chromosome DNA."

Studying the DNA not of modern humans but of their distant ancestors could help answer such questions.

"At the moment we can't follow that into the past as it's very difficult to get nuclear DNA," Dr Bower says.

This is especially problematic for the Y chromosome, which is nuclear.


Dalai Lama has more sechel than the Gedolim?




[Hat tip: I don't think he wants one!]

New York Times
September 18, 2005

'The Universe in a Single Atom': Reason and Faith
By GEORGE JOHNSON

It's been a brutal season in the culture wars with both the White House and a prominent Catholic cardinal speaking out in favor of creationist superstition, while public schools and even natural history museums shy away from teaching evolutionary science. When I picked up the Dalai Lama's new book, "The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality," I feared that His Holiness, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism, was adding to the confusion between reason and faith.

It was his subtitle that bothered me. Spirituality is about the ineffable and unprovable, science about the physical world of demonstrable fact. Faced with two such contradictory enterprises, divergence would be a better goal. The last thing anyone needs is another attempt to contort biology to fit a particular religion or to use cosmology to prove the existence of God.

But this book offers something wiser: a compassionate and clearheaded account by a religious leader who not only respects science but, for the most part, embraces it. "If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims," he writes. No one who wants to understand the world "can ignore the basic insights of theories as key as evolution, relativity and quantum mechanics."

That is an extraordinary concession compared with the Christian apologias that dominate conferences devoted to reconciling science and religion. The "dialogues" implicitly begin with nonnegotiables - "Given that Jesus died on the cross and was bodily resurrected into heaven. . ." - then seek scientific justification for what is already assumed to be true.

The story of how someone so open-minded became the Tibetan Buddhist equivalent of the pope reads like a fairy tale. When the 13th Dalai Lama died in 1933 he was facing northeast, so a spiritual search team was sent in that direction to find his reincarnation. The quest narrowed further when a lama had a vision pointing to a certain house with unusual gutters. Inside a boy called out to the visitors, who showed him some toys and relics that would have belonged to him in his previous life. "It is mine!" he exclaimed, like any acquisitive 2-year-old, and so his reign began.

Once installed in Lhasa, the new Dalai Lama happened upon another of his forerunner's possessions, a collapsible brass telescope. When he focused it one evening on what Tibetans call "the rabbit on the moon," he saw that it consisted of shadows cast by craters. Although he knew nothing yet about astronomy, he inferred that the moon, like the earth, must be lighted by the sun. He had experienced the thrill of discovery.

Before long he was dismantling and repairing clocks and watches and tinkering with car engines and an old movie projector. As he grew older and traveled the world, he was as keen to meet with scientists and philosophers - David Bohm, Carl von Weizs├Ącker, Karl Popper - as with religious and political leaders. More recently his "Mind and Life" conferences have brought physicists, cosmologists, biologists and psychologists to Dharamsala, India, where he now lives in exile from the Chinese occupation of Tibet. He and his guests discuss things like the neuroscientific basis of Buddhist meditation and the similarities between Eastern concepts like the "philosophy of emptiness" and modern field theory. In "The Universe in a Single Atom" he tells how he walked the mountains around his home trying to persuade hermits to contribute to scientific understanding by meditating with electrodes on their heads.

But when it comes to questions about life and its origins, this would-be man of science begins to waver. Though he professes to accept evolutionary theory, he recoils at one of its most basic tenets: that the mutations that provide the raw material for natural selection occur at random. Look deeply enough, he suggests, and the randomness will turn out to be complexity in disguise - "hidden causality," the Buddha's smile. There you have it, Eastern religion's version of intelligent design. He also opposes physical explanations for consciousness, invoking instead the existence of some kind of irreducible mind stuff, an idea rejected long ago by mainstream science. Some members of the Society for Neuroscience are understandably uneasy that he has been invited to give a lecture at their annual meeting this November. In a petition, they protested that his topic, the science of meditation, is known for "hyperbolic claims, limited research and compromised scientific rigor."

There may be a political subtext to the controversy. According to an article in Nature, many of the petitioners are Chinese. But however mixed their motivation, they make a basic philosophical point. All religion is rooted in a belief in the supernatural. Inviting a holy man to address a scientific conference may be leaving the back door ajar for ghosts.

Adam & Eve Horishon & their pet snake Nachy

[This post is dedicated to Dude. ]

Some people who are a little more conversant with Science say the following peshat in Breishis:

It’s true that there were many human type creatures all over the world dating back hundreds of thousands of years. But when the Torah talks about Adam & Eve it’s really talking about a new modern breed of humanity, and of course there were other people around then too of the older variety.

Adam & Eve were the first of this new breed, and were created by G-d in some fashion, either directly, or maybe through the addition of a special neshamah/intellect. There is no Scientific proof for neshamot even today, so claiming Adam & Eve had the first modern neshamot makes no difference to Science.

Some people even try and link this in to the story of the ‘Sons of the gods' marrying the ‘Daughters of Man’, and claim that this story is about the intermarriage between the descendants of the ‘godly’ Adam and the descendants of the older (but less godly?) 'Neanderthals'. (By the way, both the Malbim and Cassutto dispute this, and R Menachem Kasher notes this in Torah Shelemah.)

The motivation for this strange peshat is to try and preserve Adam & Eve as real people. Clearly, the motivation cannot be preserving the ‘mesorah’ or a literal reading of the text, since this peshat doesn’t fit the text very well without kvetching, nor is it the standard mesorah anyway (though there are certainly indications that Chazal were comfortable with the idea of previous worlds e.g. 974 of them).

So, is it worth saying such a peshat?

I think not, (but I can't prove it). Firstly, to posit that Adam & Eve were two specific people who had more developed neshamot (or brains), who then went on to fertilize the world is scientifically problematic. What about the aboriginees and other far flung peoples? Are they less developed because they don’t have the new Adam & Eve neshama/ genes in them?

Secondly, this still doesn’t help with all the other ‘facts’ in Breishis, like the impossibly long ages or global flood, or incorrect order of creation. So you end up taking many things non literally anyway, and this whole peshat is hardly the same as the traditional mesorah.

I think that it is probably not a co-incidence that the Torah goes back 6000 years, and so does modern civilization.

About 6000 years ago a marked shift occurred and humans became more urbanized. About this same time frame farming and animal husbandry became more popular, and recently some Scientists even talked about changes in brain development 5800 years ago. But this correlates to Breishis mythology for obvious reasons. You could read the story of Adam & Eve as a metaphor for the birth of modern civilization, and it works quite well.

If you really want to insist that there was an actual couple called Adam & Eve Horishon, who lived in a special garden in Iraq, and they had a special neshamah, then of course Science can’t disprove that and neither can I. But don’t forget their pet snake, Nachy. I hear he could tricks.

(And don’t marry off your kids to any Aboriginal Gerim – Pure breeds would still presumably be lacking that special neshamah/gene and you wouldn’t want your grandchildren to be ‘half-neshamas’. They might not get into the good yeshivas.)

Is Jonathan Ostroff a complete moron?

He can't be, as this list of his publications is quite impressive. Yet I never cease to be amazed by the stupidity of his posts on Avodah. There is a long debate going on currently as to whether Rav Dessler rejected evolution or not. I could give some carefully reasoned arguments showing why Rav Dessler is completely wrong. But why bother? Is Ostroff interested in well reasoned arguments when such arguments conflict with his own moronic ideology? I don't think so. So instead I will just make the obvious argument, hurl some insults, and hopefully I will feel better.

Whether evolution happened all on its ownsome, or whether it needed a little extra supernatural help from G-d makes no difference at all. Either way,a true maamin will see the hand of G-d in the fact that 15 billion years ago there was nothing, and now we have intelligent human beings (but not so much on Avodah).

Rav Dessler's alleged contention that "anyone viewing the world within the context of evolution over millions of years as opposed to seeing the yad Hashem in the beria is a tipesh and a porek ol" (according to Simcha Coffer) is utter nonsense nowadays. In fact anyone saying such a thing is a 'tipesh', and were Rav Desller alive today I would like to think that he would have enough sechel to realize his mistakes. Sure Rav Dessler was a talmid chochom, but his views on evolution are outdated, incorrect and entirely irrelevant.

Rav Dessler also says that "Geology is actually proof that the world unfolded rapidly, in a short period of time, as opposed to the evolutionary time frame." Do you honestly think that Rav Dessler knows Geology better than all the worlds geologists currently dedicating their lives to the study of Geology? GET A FRIKKIN CLUE PEOPLE. This stupidity is mind boggling. I could understand it if it was some Bnei Brak hocker who has never been exposed to Western Civilization. But the guys on Avodah speak English! They seem educated. Almost intelligent. Yet they are also complete morons. Amazing!

When will the idiots on Avodah realize that they are wasting their time? It is abundantly clear that the world is significantly older than 6000 years, and it is abundantly clear that there were many intelligent humans walking around in many parts of the world 10,000 years ago and more.

These two facts alone are enough to finish off any notion that the Adam & Eve story in Breishis is literal. Once you realize that, you will also realize that there is little gain in debating evolution. You neither lose anything or buy anything. G-d is quite capable of working though 'natural' evolution, in fact this is a greater chochmah than creating man out of thin air (or dust). Leave the details of Evolution to the Scientists, it makes no difference at this point, Breishis has already been proven to be non literal.

Denying scientifically 'proven' theories while stubbornly insisting on Sinai type proofs is the height of hypocricy and absurdity. When intelligent and frum Jews go through such mental gymnastics to try and twist the truth to fit their own narrow minded warped agendas, it really makes you think. How can these people have any credibility? How can they expect to be taken seriously? Is their Torah worth anything at all when they will stoop to lies and distortions to further their own stupidity?

Avodah should come with an 'Emunah Threat Level High' warning. The sight of so many frum Jews spouting such utter idiocy is enough to turn anyone into a kofer. Krum as Bagel told me about the latest stupidity and now I'm back in the dumps again. Just before Rosh Hashanah too.

Here is some advice for the idiots on Avodah:

When it comes to Science and Torah, the views of Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim (and 90% of present day Gedolim) are ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT. I know you all love to quote Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim on every subject under the sun, but THEY HAD NO CLUE ABOUT SCIENCE. How could they? It hadn't been 'invented' yet. Of course today's Gedolim could have a clue, but they chose not to. Shame on them.

Does insulting an idiot like Ostroff make me feel better? Not really. But realizing that Ostroff is into Formal Methods and the OMG MDA does. It proves that the guy lives in a fantasy world, I should have guessed. Here is special message for Ostroff:

DO YOU REALLY THINK RAV DESSLER WAS AN EXPERT IN GEOLOGY OR EVOLUTION? DO YOU REALLY THINK ALL THE WORLDS SCIENTISTS ARE WRONG BUT THE GEDOLIM KNOW BETTER? IF SO, YOU ARE A FOOL. DO YOU REALLY THINK FORMAL METHODS WILL EVER BE USED OUTSIDE OF ACADEMIA? IF SO, YOU ARE A DELUSIONAL FOOL. GET A FRIKKIN CLUE MAN. YOUR TORAH IS DAMAGING TO NORMAL PEOPLE. I SUGGEST YOU STOP BEFORE YOU TURN US ALL INTO KOFRIM.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Mythology in the Torah II

Some people objected that the Myth/Moshol peshat is 'not Judaism'. I guess Chief Rabbi Hertz and Rabbi Gedalyah Nadel were not Jewish then. In BeToraso Shel Rav Gedalyah, p.99, Rav Nadel says:

The description of the formation of man from the dust is by way of allegory and parable. The Holy One did not take a spoonful of dirt and knead it with water, as children do in kindergarten. The "dust" here is raw material, from which animals were also formed.

In other words, Evolution. Also noteworthy is the fact the he uses the word 'allegory' and 'parable', in other words 'Mythology'.

And I'm pretty sure that Rav Nadel was practicing Judaism, since he even got a glowing hesped in the Yated, and they don't do that if you aren't Jewish. Strangely, the hesped doesn't mention anything about Rav Nadel's somewhat unorthodox views regarding Evolution and the Age of the Universe.

Chakira had three posts on Rav Nadel:

1. Allegory
2. Age of the Universe
3. Flood

Another choice quotes from Nadel:

Maimonides said “don’t be perplexed! Read the verses in a way of figurative language, the way of language and melitzah…and this is the correct interpretation, the truth of Torah. There is no doubt that the verses didn’t mean anything contradicted by the sekhel. Thus we say “there are many varied demonstrations, with exactitude that can be tested by experiment…that show that millions of years have passed. There are radioactive tests, fragments of rocks that have been found and there are geological tests…It is a mistake to believe that all of this is false. In the realm of saving lives, the most serious part of the Torah, we rely on scientific knowledge. When a doctor applies medicine made with scientific knowledge…you rely on him. You have no suspicion that he might be lying. Also with regard to the age of the world, there is no reason to say that the scientists are lying…If the sekhel needs it and the language can accommodate it, you are required to allegorize.

Again, notice what he says and does not say. He does NOT say, 'If the sekhel needs it then twist the language to mean something it doesn't.' He DOES say 'and the language can accommodate it, you are required to allegorize'.

So my objectors will no doubt kvetch and say its okay to allegorize certain phrases and words, but not whole chapters. Why not? Maybe 'Adam' is an allegory for 'Mankind', makes sense. And 'Gan Eden' is just an allegory for 'The Fertile Crescent (or wherever)'. The bottom line is that the sekhel requires that we allegorize almost all of Breishis 1-11, so we do. Maybe those people who don't allegorize just don't have the sekhel to require it.

Here are some scanned excerpts from Rav Nadel's sefer.

Here is a copy of Rabbi Hertz's essay.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Cassuto: Introduction to From Adam To Noah

§ 1. The purpose of the Torah in this section is to teach us that the whole world and all that it contains were created by the word of the One God, according to His will, which operates without restraint. It is thus opposed to the concepts current among the peoples of the ancient East who were Israel’s neighbors; and in some respects it is also in conflict with certain ideas that had already found their way into the ranks of our people. The language, however, is tranquil, undisturbed by polemic or dispute; the controversial note is heard indirectly, as it were, through the deliberate, quiet utterances of Scripture, which sets the opposing views at naught by silence or by subtle hint.

§ 2. All kinds of wondrous stories about the creation of the world were wide-spread throughout the lands of the East, and many of them assumed a literary form in epic poems or other compositions. In the course of our exposition we shall have repeated occasion to refer to a number of matters found in these sources and to translate several verses from their texts. Here it will suffice to indicate briefly their general character.

They began, as a rule, with a theogony, that is, with the origin of the gods, the genealogy of the deities who preceded the birth of the world and mankind; and they told of the antagonism between this god and that god, of frictions that arose from these clashes of will, and of mighty wars that were waged by the gods. They connected the genesis of the world with the genesis of the gods and with the hostilities and wars between them; and they identified the different parts of the universe with given deities or with certain parts of their bodies. Even the elect few among the nations, the thinkers who for a time attained to loftier concepts than those normally held in their environment, men like Amenhotep IV the Egyptian king who attributed the entire creation to one of the gods, the sun-god Aten—and his predecessors (the discoveries of recent years prove that he was not the first to hold this doctrine), even they pictured this god to themselves as but one of the gods, be he the very greatest, as a deity linked to nature and identifiable with one of its component parts. Then came the Torah and soared aloft, as on eagles’ wings, above all these notions. Not many gods but One God; not theogony, for a god has no family tree; not wars nor strife nor the clash of wills, but only One Will, which rules over everything, without the slightest let or hindrance; not a deity associated with nature and identified with it wholly or in part, but a God who stands absolutely above nature, and outside of it, and nature and all its constituent elements, even the sun and all the other entities, be they never so exalted, are only His creatures, made according to His will.

§ 3. Among the Israelites, too, there existed, prior to the Biblical account, narrative poems about the creation and the beginning of the world’s history. Although these poems have not come down to us, having perished in the course of time, evidence of their existence is to be found both in this section and in other parts of Scripture. Frequently the prophets and the Bible poets allude to matters appertaining directly or indirectly to the creation of the world that are not mentioned in our section at all, for example, the story of Rahab, the prince of the sea, who rose up in revolt against God, and in the end God subdued him and slew him (see below, on i 9); but the brevity of these references leaves the impression that the authors were touching on topics that were well-known to the people they addressed. At times the Scriptural allusions closely resemble what we are told in the legends of the non-Israelites; yet it is difficult to imagine that these particular myths influenced them directly. Generally speaking, it is inconceivable that the prophets and poets of Israel intended to seek support for their views in the pagan mythological works, which they undoubtedly detested and abominated; nor is it thinkable that they mentioned the heathen legends as something that the Israelites knew and accepted.

Furthermore, whilst these allusions show certain resemblances quite striking, at times to the sagas of the Gentiles, they also exhibit distinct differences: the actions credited to the various deities in the pagan literature are attributed in the Hebrew Scriptures to the God of Israel, and are portrayed in a form more in keeping with Israel’s religious conscience. It follows that we have to assume the existence of intermediate links in the chain of development, which bridged the gap between the poems of the non-Israelites and the myths alluded to in the Bible. It seems that the intermediaries between the heathen peoples and Israel were the groups of Sages, the exponents of international ‘Wisdom’, who, it is known, were prone to obscure the religious elements peculiar to each individual nation. It may confidently be surmised that the said links included epic poems of Israel, Israelite cycles in which the ancient Eastern tradition took on a form that was generally in harmony with the national spirit of Israel and its religious convictions. I have dealt at length with this subject in my Hebrew essay on ‘The Epic Poetry of Israel’, which appeared in Keneseth, dedicated to H. N. Bialik, Vol. viii, 1943; I shall not, therefore, repeat what I have written there. Here I shall refer only to matters that concern our section as a whole, and in the course of my annotations on the individual verses, I shall mention the points that have a bearing on those verses in particular. Allusions to the creation-story that are unrelated to our section are found, for instance, in Job xxxviii 4-7:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?


There is a clear indication here of a tradition concerning the creation of the earth on a bright morning, whilst the stars and God’s angels sang a paean. Undoubtedly, the author of the book of Job did not fabricate these details. Nor did he invent such concepts or terms as lay the foundations, measurements, line, bases, cornerstone. Similarly, we read in Isaiah xl 12, 21–22:

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in.


The two passages probably derive from a common poetic source. It may be noted in regard to the root ? yasadh [‘lay the foundations’], which occurs in both texts in relation to the earth, that it is used a number of times in the Bible in this sense, although it does not appear in our section at all. The same applies to the verb ? nata [‘stretch out’] in connection with the heavens, which is found in Isaiah ibid., and in another passage of Job (ix 8); this word, too, occurs frequently in Scripture but not in our section. At times, moreover, both expressions to lay the foundations of the earth and to stretch out the heavens are found in juxtaposition. It cannot, therefore, be doubted that we have here an ancient literary tradition, and apparently this tradition has its roots in Israel’s epic poetry. There are also other literary characteristics that appear to belong to the vocabulary and phraseology of the ancient poetic tradition regarding the creation, and serve to prove the existence of such a poetic tradition among the Israelites: for instance, the expression spread forth the earth; the simile of a tent-curtain, or some synonym thereof, employed in connection with the stretching out of the heavens; the figure of chambers or upper chambers, signifying the heavens in relation to the earth beneath them; the verb ? hameqare [‘who hast laid the beams’] in Psa. civ 3, which corresponds to an Akkadian expression (see below, on verse 6); the root ? kun [‘establish’] followed by the words ? bal yimmot or bal timmot [‘shall not be moved’]; the verb holel in the sense of created; the adverb ? terem [‘not yet’] or the conjunction beterem [‘before’], used with reference to the pre-creation period (a similar usage is also common in non-Israelite writings), and many more examples of this kind.

As far as our own section is concerned, a poetic construction like ? ? hayetho ’eres [‘beasts of the earth’] (i 24) next to the corresponding prose form hayyath ha’ares (i 25, 30); or verses with poetic rhythm like i 27:

So God created man in His own image,
in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.


and a number of other poetic features, which we shall discuss in the course of our exposition, also point to a poetic tradition among the Israelites anterior to the Book of Genesis. The metre of the verse, So God created man . . .tetrameter, which is also found in other verses of our section, is the most usual in the epic poetry of the Eastern peoples of antiquity, and was probably employed to a large extent in the epic poetry of Israel, too. There is no necessity to assume that the Torah took these verses verbatim from an earlier epic poem. Admittedly this is possible; but it is simpler to suppose that wherever, in the course of the Biblical story, which is mainly in prose, the special importance of the subject led to an exaltation of style approaching the level of poetry, the thought took on of its own accord, as it were, an aspect conforming to the traditional pattern of narrative poetry an aspect, at all events, that was in keeping with ancient poetic tradition.

§ 4. Although the epic poetry of Israel gave the traditional material, as has been stated, a form that was generally in harmony with the spirit and conscience of the nation, it nevertheless retained certain elements in which echoes of their origin in a foreign environment could still be heard. The saga, for example, of the revolt of ‘the lord of the sea’ against God belonged to this category. The same applies to the reference in Job xxxviii 7, to the morning stars that sang and to the sons of God who shouted for joy when God laid the cornerstone of the earth. It is not surprising, therefore, that the attitude of the Torah to these elements was not sympathetic. The prophets and the Biblical poets, who were accustomed to clothe their ideas in poetic garb and to elucidate them with the help of similes, and generally to employ the familiar devices of poesy, were not, to be sure, deterred from using what they found to hand in Israel’s epic poetry. But the Torah, which is not written in verse but in prose, and employs as a rule simple, not figurative, language, and weighs every word scrupulously, was careful not to introduce ingredients that were not completely in accord with its doctrines. Nay more, whenever necessary it voiced, in its own subtle way, its objection in principle to concepts suggestive of an alien spirit as, for instance, the myth of the revolt of the sea against its Creator (see below on i 6, 9, 14–15, 21).

Nevertheless, the Torah did not refrain from taking over other components of Israel’s poetic tradition, in so far as these did not militate against its spirit. We have already seen above that here and there the style of our section assumes an elevated poetic form, and that it is precisely the metre of epic poetry that is reflected in some of its sentences. This applies also to the content of the story, which has likewise absorbed certain elements of Israel’s ancient poetry. The truth that the Torah wished to convey in this section, to wit, that the world in its entirety was created by the word of the One God, could not be stated in abstract terms, simply as a theoretical concept. Semitic thought avoids general statements. Particularly in the case of a book like ours, which was not intended for the thinkers and the elect few only, but for the people as a whole, including also its common folk, it was proper that its ideas should be embodied in the language of concrete description. Hence, the Torah made use of the concrete traditions that found expression in the ‘Wisdom’ literature and in the ancient heroic poetry of Israel, and drew from them material for its structure. Choosing only what it deemed worthy, it refined and purified the selected matter, and moulded the entire narrative to a pattern of its own a pattern befitting its purpose and educational aim. In the light of this hypothesis, the parallels between our section and the traditions current in the ancient Orient become perfectly clear.

§ 5. The structure of our section is based on a system of numerical harmony. Not only is the number seven fundamental to its main theme, but it also serves to determine many of its details. Both to the Israelites and to the Gentiles, in the East and also in the West but especially in the East it was the number of perfection and the basis of ordered arrangement; and particular importance attached to it in the symbolism of numbers. The work of the Creator, which is marked by absolute perfection and flawless systematic orderliness, is distributed over seven days: six days of labour and a seventh day set aside for the enjoyment of the completed task. On the significance and use of the number seven see the works I have listed in Tarbiz, xiii, p. 207, notes 31 32, and my remarks ibid., pp. 206–207 [Hebrew], as well as the examples that I have cited there from Akkadian and Ugaritic literature, which prove that a series of seven consecutive days was considered a perfect period [unit of time] in which to develop an important work, the action lasting six days and reaching its conclusion and outcome on the seventh day. Possibly the Torah perceives in the importance attributed to the number seven by non-Israelites a kind of indistinct echo of the story of creation.

It is worth noting in this connection that in the case of actions lasting the above-mentioned length of time, it was customary to divide the six days of labour into three pairs, and to relate the story somewhat as follows: on the first day and on the second suchand- such a work was done; so, too, on the third day and on the fourth that work was done; likewise on the fifth day and on the sixth the same work was done. Thereafter, when the work had been completed on the sixth day, came the seventh day, a day of conclusion and change of situation (see the Akkadian and Ugaritic examples that I quote ibid.). In our section the division of the days is, as we shall see later, rather different, to wit, two series of three days each. But the prevailing pattern is implicit in the rabbinic saying: ‘It (the Sabbath day) has no partner: there is the first of the Sabbath [i. e. week], the second of the Sabbath; the third, the fourth, the fifth, the eve of the Sabbath; but the Sabbath itself remains unpaired’ (Bereshith Rabba, xi 8; for the different readings and parallels see Theodor’s edition).

In view of the importance ascribed to the number seven generally, and particularly in the story of Creation, this number occurs again and again in the structure of our section. The following details are deserving of note:

(a). After the introductory verse (i 1), the section is divided into seven paragraphs, each of which appertains to one of the seven days. An obvious indication of this division is to be seen in the recurring sentence, And there was evening and there was morning, such-and-such a day. Hence the Masoretes were right in placing an open paragraph [i. e. one that begins on a new line] after each of these verses. Other ways of dividing the section suggested by some modern scholars are unsatisfactory.

(b-d). Each of the three nouns that occur in the first verse and express the basic concepts of the section, viz God [ Elohim] heavens [ shamayim], earth [eres], are repeated in the section a given number of times that is a multiple of seven: thus the name of God occurs thirty-five times, that is, five times seven (on the fact that the Divine Name, in one of its forms, occurs seventy times in the first four chapters, see below); earth is found twentyone times, that is, three times seven; similarly heavens (or firmament, raqia?) appears twenty-one times.

(e). The ten sayings with which, according to the Talmud, the world was created (Aboth v 1; in B. Rosh Hashana 32a and B. Megilla 21b only nine of them are enumerated, the one in i 29, apparently, being omitted)that is, the ten utterances of God beginning with the words, and. . . said are clearly divisible into two groups: the first group contains seven Divine fiats enjoining the creation of the creatures, to wit, ‘Let there be light’, ‘Let there be a firmament’, ‘Let the waters be gathered together’, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation’, ‘Let there be lights’, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms’, ‘Let the earth bring forth’; the second group comprises three pronouncements that emphasize God’s concern for man’s welfare (three being the number of emphasis), namely, ‘Let us make man’ (not a command but an expression of the will to create man), ‘Be fruitful and multiply’, ‘Behold I have given unto you every plant yielding seed’. Thus we have here, too, a series of seven corresponding dicta.

(f ). The terms light and day are found, in all, seven times in the first paragraph, and there are seven references to light in the fourth paragraph.

(g). Water is mentioned seven times in the course of paragraphs two and three.

(h). In the fifth and sixth paragraphs forms of the word ? hayya [rendered ‘living’ or ‘beasts’] occur seven times.

(i). The expression it was good appears seven times (the seventh time very good).
(j). The first verse has seven words.

(k). The second verse contains fourteen words twice seven.

(1). In the seventh paragraph, which deals with the seventh day, there occur the following three consecutive sentences (three for emphasis), each of which consists of seven words and contains in the middle the expression the seventh day:

And on ? God finished His work which He had
done, and He rested on ? from all His work which
He had done.
So God blessed ? and hallowed it.

(m). The words in the seventh paragraph total thirty-five five times seven. To suppose that all this is a mere coincidence is not possible.

§ 6. This numerical symmetry is, as it were, the golden thread that binds together all the parts of the section and serves as a convincing proof of its unity against the view of those—and they comprise the majority of modern commentators—who consider that our section is not a unity but was formed by the fusion of two different accounts, or as the result of the adaptation and elaboration of a shorter earlier version. According to the prevailing view, the division of the work of creation in the original text differed from that found in the present recension, eight—or ten—creative acts, or seven days of work (man being formed on the seventh), or some other scheme being envisaged; only in the last redaction, it is assumed, was the division into six days of work introduced and the idea of the Sabbath added. The final edition is attributed by most scholars to the source P; the different theories concerning the source of the first version need not detain us here. I have already dealt with this matter fully in the second part of my essay, ‘La creazione del mondo nella Genesi’ (the creation of the world according to the Book of Genesis), published in Annuario di studi ebraici, Vol. i (1934) pp. 47–49. The reader who wishes to delve more deeply into the subject will find there the requisite details as well as a bibliography; here a summary account of the position must suffice. Following are the main arguments advanced by the scholars referred to:

(1). Internal contradictions: the existence of day and night before the creation of the luminaries; the presence of plants before the sun came into being.

(2). Signs of inconsistency and the absence of a unified system in the phrasing and formulation of the account: sometimes the expression and it was so is used, sometimes a different wording; on most of the days we are told it was good, but not on the second day; the acts of creation are described in different ways (at times God issues an order and His order is carried out; at other times it is He who creates or makes; on other occasions still He commands the elements to form the creatures).

(3). The distribution of the acts of creation over six days is not balanced, for the works of the first three days do not properly correspond to those of the last three days. Thus we have: 1. Light 2. Heavens 3. Earth (including vegetation) and sea 4. Luminaries 5. Fish and birds 6. Living creatures on land, and man

(4). The use of antiquated words and concepts. Not one of these contentions, however, is tenable in the face of critical examination. On the problem of the existence of day and night and plant-life before the formation of the luminaries, see below on i 14. With reference to the variations in phrasing and formulation, I have shown (in Tarbiz, xiii, pp. 205–206, sec. 2, [Hebrew], and subsequently in Keneseth, dedicated to the memory of H. N. Bialik, viii, pp. 126–127, sec. 15 [Hebrew]) that, in contrast to the style of epic poetry, which is prone to word-for-word repetition, it is a basic principle of Biblical narrative prose not to repeat a statement in identical terms; with fine artistic sense, the narrator likes to alter the wording or to shorten it or to change the order of the words when reverting to any subject (except when dealing with technical matters like the work of the Tabernacle, the sacrifices of the princes, or the genealogies). Concerning the expressions and it was so and that it was good, see below the detailed annotations on the verses where they occur or are omitted. As for the three different ways of describing the acts of creation, it should be noted, firstly, that, quite apart from the point made previously regarding the characteristics of narrative prose style, these linguistic variations could serve to prove the existence of different versions only if it had been possible to employ each type of wording in all instances; in such circumstances the choice of one mode of expression in preference to the other two could be construed as typical of a given recension. Actually, this is not the case. In regard to the light, which was but an immaterial phenomenon so long as it was independent of the luminaries, neither the second nor the third form of wording was applicable, and so the Bible had necessarily to use the first form. Similarly, in respect of the gathering of the water into one place, which represents only movement and not the creation of a new element, the first mode of expression had, perforce, to be chosen. Furthermore, the three ways of portraying the creative process cannot be considered of equal value. On the contrary, that which God creates or makes is of a higher order than what is formed by the elemental forces of nature. Bearing all this in mind, we cannot but conclude that throughout the section the three different modes of expression are used according to a systematic plan. When referring to non-material things, such as the creation of light or the gathering of the waters, the first mode, as stated, is inevitably chosen. In depicting the fashioning of new material entities, the second or third type of phrasing, according to the category of creation, is employed. Thus the second type—to wit, the creation or making by God—serves for the highest forms of being, namely, the firmament, the luminaries and man (there is a difference of degree even between making and creating, as we shall see later on verses 2–3); the combined second and third forms of expression are used for living creatures (fifth and sixth days); the third by itself is applied to plant-life. As to the distribution of the acts of creation over six days and the culmination of the process on the seventh day, reference to the ancient examples of similar schemes in the literatures of the East, to which I alluded above (at the beginning of § 3), will suffice to convince us at once that there are no grounds whatsoever for attributing the division adopted in our text to a later redaction. Regarding the parallelism between the first three days and the last three days, it will be clear from my commentary that only the version before us provides a completely harmonious balance, viz: 1. Light 2. Sea and Heaven 3. Earth (with its plants) 4. Luminaries 5. Fish and Fowl 6. Land creatures and Man In so far as the archaic expressions and concepts are concerned, they are fully explained by our hypothesis regarding the Israelite tradition of epic poetry that antedated the Torah account.

Myth/Moshol or Non Literal?

A debate is raging in some of my prior posts about whether one can say Breishis 1-11 is Mythology. It's an interesting debate, because I think all sides basically agree that a literal interpretation of Breishis is obviously incorrect, and that the world is clearly very ancient.

The position of the 'Non Literal' crowd is that we must save the basics of the stories, even while reading most of the words non-literally. So for example we can switch around the Breishis account to accord with the facts, but Adam & Eve must be real people. They insist on this for the following reasons:

1. Chazal always assumed that Adam & Eve were real
2. It's a slippery slope once you start mythologizing

However neither of these reasons hold up. Chazal also assumed that Breishis was a factual literal account in many places, and that the flood was global (execpt for Eretz Yisrael according to one authority) so the Non Literal crowd are going against Chazal's assumptions anyway. And 'Non Literal' is just as much a slippery slope as Mythology. Maybe the 10 commandments are non literal?

No, I don't buy into these reasons. The real reason is as I have stated: They are emotionally attached to the idea of Adam & Eve being real. So if it makes them feel better, lets assume that there really was a couple called Adam & Eve Horishon, who lived in a nice garden in Iraq 6000 years ago. Oh, and they had a pet snake, who did tricks!

Seriously though, taking things 'Non Literally' approaches 'Mythology' very, very quickly. Remember, Mythology does not mean Fairy Tales. It means important truths wrapped up in story form.

In order to fit Adam & Eve with the facts, the Non_literal crowd have to say that there were other people around, but only A&E had some special kind of neshamah. But that gets you into all sorts of problems as to whether Aboriginees have neshamot. So then they say, maybe all people got neshamot at the same time as A&E. So what was so special abut A&E? So then they say, maybe A&E were not literally individual people, but really were representative of mankind as a whole, maybe its the story of modern man replacing neandertahl man. By the time you get to this point you know where you are?

Its called Mythology.

Correction: For 'Mythology' read 'Aggadata'

Ralph Spoilsport defies his name and suggests that instead of 'Mythology' I should use the word 'Agadata'. What a great idea! Of course the fundamentalists will still have a problem since they tend to take all Agadata literally anyway, but at least the rest of us will understand.

Monday, September 5, 2005

What is not in Chazal and/or Rishonim is not Judaism.

Der Alter seems pretty convinced that if Chazal or Rishonim didn't say it, then it can't possibly be 'Authentic Torah True Judaism'. Hence my peshat in Breishis 1-11 cannot possibly be correct. By the same logic no peshat which states the world is older than 5765 years, or that Adam & Eve were not real, or that there was no global flood can possibly be Torah True.

Now, I have the greatest respect for Chazal and Rishonim, and for Der Alter too, especially in this month of Ellul, prime Mussar season. Mussar is supremely important and I think its a crying shame that we all don't learn more of it. R Yisroel Salanter is one of my heroes for re-emphasizing the ethical, moral and spiritual aspects of Judaism. So far be it from me to bash the heilige Chazal, Rishonim or Mussar Greats.

But I must respond with this: WHAT A LOAD OF NONSENSE.

First of all, there is plenty that Chazal and Rishonim said which is not part of Judaism (think bogus medicine and spiritual moons). Der Alter claims these were never part of Judaism itself, just external items which were deemed 'compatible with Judaism'. OK. Then think about all the new stuff which was invented after the Rishonim (think Ari's Kabalah). Der Alter claims these were all based on previous authentic strands of kabalah. Whatever.

The fact of the matter is this: It doesn't matter one whit what Chazal or Rishonim thought was peshat in Breishis, since CHAZAL AND THE RISHONIM HAD ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE HOW OLD THE UNIVERSE WAS OR HOW HUMANITY EVOLVED OR WHETHER A GLOBAL FLOOD HAD HAPPENED. Sorry, but it's true. And this is no disrespect to them AT ALL. THEY COULDN'T POSSIBLY HAVE KNOWN, SINCE NO ONE ON THE ENTIRE PLANET KNEW THESE THINGS before about the 18th century. Isn't this BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS TO ANYONE WITH THE REMOTEST DEGREE OF SECHEL?

This being the case, ANY UNDERSTANDING WHICH CHAZAL AND RISHONIM HAD IN BREISHIS IS ALMOST ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT. I say 'almost' because any moral, ethical or spiritual lessons they learned are 100% relevant. But the fact that Chazal and the Rishonim assumed the world was only a few thousand years old, or that Adam & Eve were real, or that the flood was global is irrelevant. They assumed it was literal because they had no reason not to assume that. But we HAVE EVERY REASON IN THE WORLD TO KNOW IT CAN'T POSSIBLY BE LITERAL.

So, we are left with a choice. Either kvetch like crazy and come out with some bastardized peshat in Breishis which barely conforms to reality and turns Breishis stories into a joke, or recognize that it's Mythology and learn the correct lessons from it. Again, MYTHOLOGY DOESN'T MEAN FAIRY TALES. MYTHOLOGY MEANS IMPORTANT INFORMATION ENCODED INTO SIMPLE STORIES.

Go read some books on mythology, especially this one. There may even be kernels of true events encoded in the Breishis stories. But you won't get at any of this with kvetchy peshat and bogus science. A far better approach would be to read up on ancient Sumerian Mythology and compare and contrast. Read Cassuto: From Adam to Noah, or Sarna: Understanding Genesis. Or see the notes at the end of Breishis in the standard Soncino Chumash.

The funny thing is that this MYTHOLOGY/MOSHOLOGY peshat is standard amongst educated MO Jews and even some LW UO Jews (don't make me name any names!). It's only sheltered Chareidim who are shocked to hear of it. For goodness sake guys, it's been in the Soncino Chumash since 1936! And Rabbi Hertz was the Chief (Orthodox) Rabbi of the British Empire!

I love Judaism and I love Mussar, but I cry for both.

Kannaim: Moon Landing Was a Hoax

Reliable sources in Israel tell me that one of the kannaim, part of the group behind the Slifkin ban and intent on delegitimizing the Kamenetzky family (which is what the drive behind the Slifkin ban was actually all about), has been showing people a Foxtel documentary proving that astronauts never landed on the moon and it was all faked by NASA!

What the heck??

Well, this is in reference to the famous account of Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky z"l who watched the moon landing and concluded that Rambam was not correct in describing the moon as a spiritual being. The kannoim hope to show that Hollywood fooled Reb Yaakov into being a kofer. Evidently they will go to any lengths to try and prove this. What a bunch of maniacs. How can the Gedolim be so stupid as to listen to these people?

In fact the kannaim are not even following their own retarded ideology. I blogged about the fake moon landing months ago. The kannoim are forgetting the obvious peshat: The moon used to be a spiritual body, but then nishtaneh hatevah (actually nishtaneh hayareach) and now it's made of granite. So the Rambam wasn't actually wrong (in his time) at all. And why not? You think that's any more ridiculous than using nishtaneh hatevah to explain why lice have babies, whereas 2000 years ago they spontaneously generated?

Sometimes, I can understand why the skeptics just want the heck out of here. How much stupidity do we have to endure? Even otherwise sensible people have been spouting nonsense recently, in reference to my mythology post. Here is a sampling:

1. You have too much faith in science. You have more emunah in science
than in Torah.

(No, I have emunah in proven facts.)

2. Science changes all the time. All this will change too.

(Right. Ultimately scientists will realize that the world is exactly 5765 years old after all! Sure.)

3. The scientists disagree between themselves, so why should we listen to them.

(Right. One scientist says the world is 10 billion years old and another says 20 billion. So you see they can be wrong by billions of years! Maybe they are wrong by 10 to 20 billion years and the world is 5765 years old after all. Sure.)

4. Science can only document the present, it cannot 'predict' the past.

(Nonsense. Unless you invoke bizarre miracles.)

5. Science by definition can't accept G-d, so obviously they don't agree to Breishis.

(Nonsense.)

Other people kvetch and kvetch and kvetch. Well day doesn't mean day. And vegetation (created before the sun) doesn't really mean vegetation. It just means the potential for vegetation. And the sun didn't fully form until after earth was created, so maybe that's what the pasuk means when it talks about the creation of earth before the sun. And maybe Adam & Eve were just two special people. And maybe the flood was just a local flood. And when it says 'all the animals' it just means all the local animals. And maybe in the tower of bavel story everyone knew different languages already but they spoke a common one too, and then G-d made them forget the common one. And on and on and on.

I think it would be useful for the kvetchers to stop and rethink what they just turned Breishis into. A story about 2 people with slightly different neshamas? A story about a small flood and one guy who survived it? And a failed building project?!. What's the big deal?

I think the problem is that people don't understand what Mythology is. Mythology doesn't mean bube mayses. Mythology doesn't mean fairy tales for children. Mythology doesn't mean urban myths.

Mythology means great truths encoded in the form of an easy to remember story. Myths typcially formed before writing was invented, and hence had to survive oral transmission for hundreds or even thousands of years. Even Mythology created after writing was invented still had to be easy to remember and interesting and exciting to hear, guaranteeing that it would be passed down from generation to generation without being forgotten.

Breishis being Mythology does not mean it is all a waste of time. There are great and serious lessons in Breishis. But this does not mean Breishis is literally true, nor does it mean you should twist and bastardize basic peshat to try and get it to fit with current Science. The stories told in Breishis do not fit with the Scientific explanation of the world. Period. Making them fit by twisting the Science or by twisting the Torah is the wrong mehalech.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Can the Torah contain Mythology?

In the previous post I showed how Breishis does not in any way conform to the accepted scientific account of the Universe’s creation and subsequent history. What’s quite amazing is how frum Jews, even well educated ones, often have no clue as to the extent of the incompatibilities. I will even admit that I was exactly the same. In the frum world, people just don’t think about these things with any rigor.

Most frum people are dimly aware that Scientists say the world is billions of years old, man evolved ‘from’ monkeys, and dinosaurs existed, but that’s about it. They assume the answer to Breishis questions is that ‘day’ isn’t literal, ‘taninim gedolim’ means dinosaurs, and that evolution is treif. When you point out to them that a global flood and subsequent repopulation of the entire planet’s human and animal life from one small boat is completely impossible, they say it was all a ness and that there is no evidence it didn’t happen, just lack of evidence that it did.

Well, actually there is plenty of evidence it didn’t happen, making the ‘ness’ theory somewhat theologically troubling. Also, you can’t discount all of evolution without taking a large part of our biological sciences down with it.

Some people insist that Science can’t tell us anything about the past, only about the future, because the past may have had a different set of scientific laws. Well, thats kinda crazy. Why would the scientific laws just change like that? Is G-d just playing with us? And maybe they will all change again tomorrow? Better not get on that plane tonight! I would regard those kind of answers as too crazy, and I am not going to entertain them here.

So, most sensible educated people take it for granted that at least the first 11 chapters of Breishis are mythological. Sure, there could have been a naked couple in Iraq six thousand years ago called Adam and Eve, and there could have been a guy in a boat called Noach, but once you accept the Scientific account of the history of the world, stubbornly clinging on to these characters when their surrounding stories can’t possibly be true doesn’t seem to make much sense.

After all, if Adam & Eve were just a couple living in a particularly nice part of Iraq, then what’s the point? And if Noach was just one of thousands of flood survivors from some small local flood, then what’s the big deal about Noach? And if the Tower of Babylonians really was not the cause of the many different languages, then why that story?

So, let’s think about the alternative. What are the problems if we say that Breishis 1-11 is Mythological? Let me present a few issues, and some solutions. If you think this all sounds somewhat apologetic, well duh!

1. Divine Authorship
Many people feel that once we say something is mythological, it is a threat to Divine Authorship. After all, why would G-d write mythology? Surely G-d would only write the truth? There are a few different aspects to this question:

1. Who actually wrote Breishis ?
2. Does G-d allowing Breishis in the Torah mean it must be true?
3. Would G-d write Mythology, and if so why?

In terms of the first question, we find that it seems to be quite acceptable to hold that G-d was NOT the original author of Breishis, but that Breishis was written under ‘Divine Inspiration’, just like the books of Nach. Rabbi Gil Student writes:

We find the following in Shemot Rabbah 5:22: "And Moshe said before the Holy One, blessed be He, (Exodus 5:22) 'Why have You done evil to this people...' I opened the book of Genesis and read it and saw the acts of the generation of the flood..." As R' Zev Wolf Einhorn points out in his Perush Maharzu, it seems like Moshe had some sort of book of Genesis well before he descended from Mt. Sinai. …. The answer is simply that our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov, and even those who preceded them like Adam and Noach, wrote down personal histories and theological works that were kept by their descendants. As prophets, their writings were sacred and treated like holy books. They were studied by their children and handed down from generation to generation. Rashi on Gittin 60a says that first the scroll of Creation was written, then the scroll of Noach, and then the scroll of Avraham. … Rashi seems to say that it was written at different times, scroll by scroll. Or, perhaps Rashi is not talking about the book of Genesis at all. Rather, he is telling us that all of these people wrote their own scrolls. Adam wrote a book about his life and what happened during his lifetime. He was a prophet and, naturally, this was an inspired book. ….Throughout the stay in Egypt and the desert, the scrolls of the forefathers were treated as sacred books and studied. These books, which were written under prophetic inspiration, form the basis of the book of Genesis. Granted, they were highly edited so that the book would not be too long….


According to R Gil, Breishis was written by the Avos, and even Noach and Adam (unlikely since they probably didn't exist), and then ‘edited’ by Moshe under G-d’s command. So Breishis being written by others besides G-d is not the actual problem. The main problem is, if Breishis stories were Mythological, why would G-d have included them in the Torah. Isn’t that very misleading? Why is that any better than faking up the post-flood evidence, or creating a fully formed world complete with fossils? How could G-d have let such a situation arise, when many people, even great Gedolim, don’t realize its all mythology?

I would suggest the following answers:

Man has free will. It’s not G-d’s fault if we can’t spot Mythology when we see it. After all, 2 billion Christians believe in Jesus. Is that fair? Why not wonder about that? Or don’t goyim count? And what about Skeptics? How could G-d have let a situation arise when so many people in the world don’t believe in Him? Of course the answer is that man has free will. Nothing in this world is absolutely clear. We have to do our best to understand it. But don't blame G-d.

2. Does G-d allowing Breishis in the Torah mean it must be true?
Many Gedolim, including Rav Kook, Rambam etc are okay with taking Torah non literally. Rambam explains the Bilaam episode as a dream. Why are these not misleading? Or even the cases of anthropomorphism? We have a klal, that dibrah torah keloshon bnei odom. So the Torah contained an account which was suitable for the people of the day to understand and that’s all. Nowadays, G-d expects us to use our sechel to realize that. Just because something is in the Torah does not mean it has to be literally true.

3. Would G-d write Mythology, and if so why?
The point of the Torah is to teach Moral and Ethical lessons, not Science, or even history. In fact the very first Rashi on the Torah confirms this. This can certainly be done using mythological stories. In fact, it can more effectively be done from mythology, since with real life you are constrained to only write about what actually happened, which may or may not contain any valuable lessons.

2. Slippery Slope
Many people are concerned that we have a very slippery slope here. If Breishis 1-11 is Mythological, why not 11-24, or Shemos, or the whole of Tenach? Where do you do draw the line?

I would suggest the following answers:

Many of our beliefs can be discounted through arguments. Torah MiSinai and many other ikkarim don’t hold up to serious skepticism. But we have emunah all the same. On the other hand, Science is clearly reliable and we trust it all the time in our everyday lives. So what to do?

The most sensible approach is as follows: Where we have proven Science which contradicts a belief or a pasuk in the Torah, we need to listen to the facts. If there is no proven Science, only theories and speculations, then that’s a different story.

Breishis 1-11 is ‘pre-history’ from a perspective of the Bnei Yisrael at Har Sinai, or even from the Avos’s perspective. There is no reason why such ancient history would have been reliably known. However the stories of the Avos, and certainly Yetzias Mitzrayim itself would have been more recent history or even current events. In other words, the rest of the Torah could have been written at the same time as the events actually occurred, but the stories of Breishis 1-11 not so. Also, there is no proven Science against the stories of the Avos, and the Maccot and Har Sinai are clearly miracles, which would not have left much if any evidence.

There is certainly a problem with the huge numbers of people supposedly leaving Mitzrayim, and the almost complete lack of archeological and historical evidence for such a huge event. Some people like to claim that ‘Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence’, but that’s not so great. It’s definitely a question, and I don’t have my full answer fully fleshed out yet (soon). However, it’s still not quite as strong as the ‘proven’ science which contradicts Breishis 1-11.

Finally, I would say it is a slippery slope. However we already have questions and are already on the slope. So we might as well make the most of it.

3. Connectivity
There is a problem in that the Mythology stories are connected to the story of Avraham, by way of the geneologies. There is no clean separation there. The only answer I have is that the Torah was edited to make it into a seamless story, so it had to be done that way.

4. Emotional Attachment
Many people have an emotional attachment to Adam & Eve, or Noach. This probably stems from having learnt Breishis in kindergarten, or having a Noach blanky and crib set when they were younger. I have noticed a sliding scale here, some people can’t give up on the idea of any of them being real. Some people are okay with Adam & Eve being myth, but draw the line at Noach. Some people are willing to let Noach sink into oblivion (excuse the pun), but draw the line at the Avos. Personally I remember being quite upset when I realized Noach probably wasn’t real, but I got over it.

I would like to keep the Avos, since we daven about them quite a bit every day. Adam & Eve and the Mabul rarely appear in davening, except ‘Hashem LaMabul Yoshov’ which isn’t so serious. I recall some piyutim on Yomim Tovim, and of course you have the long Breishis description in the Avodah on Yom Kippur, but that’s not the end of the world either (nor the beinning haha). However I would be more upset to lose the Avos, certainly. There is no Scientific evidence against the Avos currently except for the Sedom story. People used to complain about the camels but I believe that has become a non issue now. So I think we can keep the Avos.

5. Mesorah
Finally, many people object that the Mesorah has always held Breishis 1-11 to be true. Well, I guess. But not Mesorah as in Halachah LeMoshe MiSinai, just mesorah in terms of natural assumptions, which is understandable. But it's time to change our natural assumptions. By the way, the mesorah also assumed the earth was flat and the sun went round the earth, so maybe mesorah (small 'm') is not so great.

Breishis & Science

Does Breishis fit with Science?

I'm glad you asked! Let’s see by looking at the text. I shall ignore Midrashic explanations which tend to be even more fantastical than the basic text and just focus on the basic text. Let’s go chapter by chapter through the beginning of Breishis and see what happens. I shall focus on the aspects of the Breishis story that are relevant to Science, and ignore other details that are not. Contradictions within the text itself shall be ignored, as shall obvious similarities to other ancient texts.

1. Breishis 1
Creation starts approximately 5765 years ago with Water. Next comes light, and then the first day ends. Second day, G-d creates Heaven and Earth, by separating the Waters. Third day, G-d moves around the lower waters, and thereby creates dry land and seas, and then creates vegetation on the earth. On the fourth day, G-d created the Sun, the moon and the stars. On the fifth day, G-d created all aquatic creatures, including Sea monsters, and also all birds. On the 6th day, G-d created animals, insects and then finally man and woman.

1. Science
Creation (of the current Universe) starts approximately 15 billion years ago with a Big Bang of energy, no Water. The energy could conceivably be called ‘light’. There is no separation of water into Heaven and Earth. For the next 10 billion years, various galaxies, stars and planets are born and die. Finally, about 4-8 billion years ago, our solar system is formed. The sun forms first and then the surrounding planets. Many stars obviously precede the earth’s formation, and vegetation obviously does not come before the Sun. Life starts in the seas about billion years ago, and then slowly spreads to the land first, and then to the sky. Dinosaurs rule the earth from about 300 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. Man (and of course woman) appear in some form about 2 million years ago. For the next 2 million years, Man (and woman) slowly evolve from primitive ape like beings to modern Homo Sapiens. Language appears about 100,000 years ago (if not earlier). Cave Paintings appear about 30,000 years ago. Man migrates out of Africa (or maybe India) and spreads across all 5 continents. 10,000 years ago we have intelligent man living in North America, Australia, Africa, Europe in many places. Pottery, art, language, even some basic farming are commonplace.

1. Conclusion
No match.

2. Breishis 2
G-d created a man, called Adam, and then placed him in the Garden of Eden, somewhere near present day Iraq/Iran. G-d tells Adam to eat from any tree. But not the tree of Good & Evil. Adam names all the animals but doesn’t have a mate. G-d recognizes that this isn’t good, so G-d makes him sleep, and then takes one of his ribs and creates a woman. They are both naked, and are not ashamed.

2. Science
The area described as Gan Eden is quite lush and fertile, and civilization does blossom there. As well as many other places in the world. Women and man both evolve from earlier forms.

2. Conclusion
No match.

3. Breishis 3
A talking snake convinces the woman to eat the forbidden fruit. G-d is unhappy and banishes the man and woman from the Garden. He punishes the snake by making it crawl, women are punished by being subservient and having childbirth pains, and men in general punished by having to work the ground for food. G-d creates clothes for Adam, and Adam calls his wife Eve.

3. Science
Snakes don’t talk, and fruit is fruit. Biologically, childbirth has been difficult for at least 100,000 years, since babies have large heads which are difficult to fit through the birth canal. Snakes have also been crawling for millions of years. Early man started to farm (as opposed ti hunt) about 10,000 years ago. Farming was always difficult. Clothes were invented at least 100,000 years ago.

3. Conclusion
No match.

4. Breishis 4
Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain & Abel. Cain kills Abel and G-d marks him so that he won’t be killed by other people (which other people?). Cain has children. And 7 generations later he has Yovol and Yuvol and Tuval-Cain, originators of nomadic life, musical instruments and brass & iron respectively.

4. Science
• 29,000–25,000 BCE - First ceramic appears
• 3rd millennium BC - Copper metallurgy is invented and copper is used for ornamentation
• 2nd millennium BC - Bronze is used for weapons and armour
• 1st millennium BC - Pewter beginning to be used in China and Egypt
• 16th century BC - The Hittites develop crude iron metallurgy
• 13th century BC - Invention of steel when iron and charcoal are combined properly

4. Conclusion
Partial match.

5. Breishis 5
Adam lived 930 years. Seht lives 912 years. Enosh lives 905 years. Kenan lives 910 years. Chanoch lives 365 years. Lamech lives 777 years. Noach is 500 years old, and has 3 children.

5. Science
Average lifespans tend to rise and fall depending on the region of the world and time perod, but generally fall into the range of 30-80 years. Maximum human lifespan would seem to be 120-150 years. All ancient bodies dug up (5000-10000 years old) are within the 30-80 range, usually at the low end. Living past 200 years might be possible in the future, but not in the past.
5. Conclusion
No match.

6. Breishis 6
Sons of gods (rulers?) steal daughters of men. G-d is unhappy, and limits human lifespan to 120 years. Nephilim (giants?) roam the earth. G-d is unhappy with the violence on the earth, and vows to destroy all mankind. However Noach finds favor, so G-d commands him to build a boat, and gives him detailed instructions. G-d tells Noach to take 2 of every kind of animal into the Ark, and food.

6. Science
There are no sons of gods (at least according to Judaism). There are also no giants. Boats are commonplace about 4,000 years ago.

6. Conclusion
Partial Match.

7. Breishis 7
Approximately 5,000 years ago, G-d says he will cause it to rain and blot out every living being on the earth. The fountains of the deep were opened, as well as the storehouses of the heavens. All the high mountains under all the heavens are covered in water. Every single animal, fish and insect dies, only Noah is saved.

7. Science
There were many local floods throughout the world. An ice age ended about 20,000 years ago in Europe causing massive flooding. There was also potentially a major flood in the Caspian see area about 8,000 years ago. In all cases, only the local populations and animals were affected. No mountains were ever covered in water. That much water does not exist on the planet, nor could the planet sustain so much water. There are no ‘fountains of the deep’, nor ‘storehouses in the heaven’ of such vast quantities of water. Geological and archeological evidence from a variety of sites all over the world show uninterrupted human habitation and development for at least the past 30,000 years, and show that a global flood never happened.

7. Conclusion
No match.

8. Breishis 8
The flood eventually ends and Noah and his wife and sons leave the Ark. They repopulate the earth with animals, fish and birds, since everything was wiped out. There are no other humans besides them.

8. Science
Archeological and zoological evidence from all over the world show an uninterrupted development of human and animal life all over the planet. Some species have been indigenous to their areas for tens of thousands of years.

8. Conclusion
No match.

9. Breishis 9
Noah and his family repopulate the earth. Noah dies at 950 years old.

9. Science
Population and genetic studies, not to mention archeological data, show that the population of the earth with humans was unbroken and happened 30-50,000 years ago. There was no repopulation of humanity only 4,000 years ago from a single family.

9. Conclusion
No match.

10. Breishis 10
Geneology of Noach’s sons, showing how they repopulated the Earth.

10. Science
Same as above.

10. Conclusion
No match.

11. Breishis 11
The whole earth speaks one language, approximately 4,000 years ago. They buld a tower to heaven which displeases G-d. G-d scatters the men and causes them to have different languages. Men spread across the face of the earth. A geneology is decribed linking shem to Abraham

11. Science
Linguistic evolution shows language developed in many parts of the earth over the last 50 to 100,000 years. Human populations too.

11. Conclusion
No match.


Conclusion
Clearly, 99% of the Science of the first 11 chapters does not match accepted Science. The only thing that came close was the invention of metal working. So, what are we to do?

Obviously you can claim that all Science is the work of evil atheist reshoim and therefore unreliable, or alternatively everything is a Ness. However Science is clearly reliable, and nothing is a Ness unless the Torah explicitly says it is (following the mehalech of the Rambam).

This leaves us with 2 options.

1. Kvetch like crazy to come up with far out Scientific theories, take many of the words non literally, ignore many difficult passages and create a story which is entirely far fetched, does not really match the accepted scientific account and destroys much of the meaning and impact in the text

2. Explain the whole thing as mythology which was included in the Torah for the important moral and spiritual lessons it teaches us.

I call option 1 the ‘Kiruv Clown’ option.