Tuesday, November 8, 2005

What The Gosse-Goons Don't Realize

Here is a short list of serious problems with Gosse Theory i.e. That the world was created looking old. (Note that Gosses original theory that the world was created in a mature state isn't enough to answer the kashyes on Breishis, it needs to be supplemented by a whole bunch of weird miracles to make it work.)

  1. It requires us to believe that G-d planted huge amounts of fake evidence.
  2. It doesn’t actually fit with the text of Breishis anyway.
  3. It doesn’t answer many of the questions regarding the Mabul, Migdal Bavel etc, or why the order of Creation is wrong.
  4. It has no real basis in the Mesorah, and in fact the notion of G-d deceiving us in such a way runs counter to normative Judaism (Navi Sheker is different).
  5. It kills any chance of rationally proving Sinai, since the nesayon theory can trump Sinai too.
  6. It raises serious philosophical questions regarding rationality and reality, and makes rational reasoning very suspect, if not impossible.
  7. It says, G-d would never lie to us in the Torah, but totally faked us out with his Creation, yet we know for a fact that only He was responsible for the Creation, yet there are many other plausible explanations for the Torah (e.g. Non Literal). In effect, you are more comfortable saying that G-d is a faker than saying that the fundamentalists are wrong. Weird priorities.
  8. It will make me ridicule you mercilessly.
The problem with Gosse is not just that it makes G-d to be a faker (though that is bad enough). The problem is that it's an entirely arbitrary, unprovable solution, specifically invented to answer a contradiction, using the kind of reasoning that can be used to resolve any contradiction, at any time, ever. I can just as well use Gosse type reasoning to prove that Sinai didn't happen, or that Zoboomafoo is really our creator.

In other words, it's worthless.

Pottery & Paintings

[Artwork courtesy of Hakodosh Boruch Hu]

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Let's talk about pottery and paintings. There are many different pottery and painting styles from all over the world, and from many different eras. Australian aboriginal art is quite unique for example.

According to Gosse, Gosseleib and Gosse Student, any pottery and paintings pre 5766 are fakes, planted by G-d in the newly created world to make it appear old, presumably to test us. Any pottery and paintings post 5766 are real.

But wait a minute, the Torah recounts how the dispersion only occurred after the Migdal Bavel incident. So any pottery from say 5766-4766 years ago in Australia must also be fake. Did G-d create that fake pottery at the moment of creation? Or maybe later? I guess at the moment of creation, but it was faked to look younger.

But, isn't it strange that the real Aboriginal pottery which came later exactly matches the style of G-d's fake pottery which was buried in the ground from before? I guess G-d with His foreknowledge knew what style the Aboriginees would pick and davkah planted the appropriate pots in the right places. Or maybe the Aboriginees dug up the old pottery and copied the styles?

This means that not only is G-d in the business of dictating books, but also He designs pottery and paintings! I like the paintings in the caves in France, some very nice brushwork there.

And what about the global flood, for which there is evidence it never happened? I guess G-d cleaned up all the evidence, another ness of course. This one isn't really Gosse theory, but you need it all the same. Why would G-d make it look like the Mabul never happened? To test us of course! It all fits like a glove. Or maybe a straight-jacket.

And what about all the ancient civilizations which show continuous evidence of being around for 8,000 years or more? Were they created with false memories of history? Many of them only got their start after the Migdal Bavel, and certainly only after the Mabul. How did Noach's new descendants who branched out after the flood pick up all the pieces of the earlier destroyed civilizations and re-create them in the correct image? Thats a pretty cool trick. Those migdal-bavelians who were magically flown to the Americas successfully re-created Native American culture. Likewise those migdal-bavelians who were magically flown to Australia. How did they know what to do? I guess they dug up all the fake stuff and tried their best.

Oy vey. I am starting to sound like one of those skeptics. Do you see, all you Gosse-Goons, see what effect your insanity has?

Gosse Student

Oy Vey!

R Gil Student has clearly lost his mind. Maybe it was me tagging him as Conservative Chareidi in my previous post that did him in.

R Gil says (regarding Gosse):

Does this contradict the way God is supposed to work? I don't know. My general response is simply "Could be." Can the world have been created looking old? Could be. Would God make this elaborate fake-out to fool us into thinking the world is older than it really is? Could be. Hey, I don't claim to know how God works.

To which the only rational response is:

Does this contradict the way Zoboomafoo is supposed to work? I don't know. My general response is simply "Could be." Can the world have been created with fake evidence of Sinai? Could be. Would Zoboomafoo make this elaborate fake-out to fool us into thinking that Judaism is real? Could be. Hey, I don't claim to know how Zoboomafoo works!

R Gil, I like you, so listen up and listen well.

You cannot throw rational thought away with such wild abandon like that. It's insane. You cannot just create arbitrary theories to explain away contradictions. You undermine the basis for everything once you start doing that. Even the Gedolim have not endorsed Gosse. There is no mekkor ANYWHERE in traditional Judaism for the idea of G-d creating fake evidence.

Maybe you could find some support for the idea of the World being created at a certain age, like Adam. But certainly not for fake cave paintings, or clean up of a global flood. That's nuts. Gosse is not only insane, but a distortion of traditional Jewish values too. So maybe the mythology peshat is not so traditional either, but at least it's not insane.

Once you discard evidence for non rational arbitrary theories, there is no more room for rational discourse. I could make up anything at all and say 'Could be, could be'. Well anything could be, even the holy Zoboomafoo.

The point is NOT what 'could be'. The point is, 'What is most likely to be'.

Why Gosseleib doesn’t work

I’m not sure everyone gets why Gosseleib is so wrong. Let me try and explain one more time.

Gosseleib starts from a position that he can convince any reasonable person of the truths of Judaism. He has a long, well researched essay where he shows that given the evidence of the claim of Sinai, plus the history of the Jewish people, any reasonable person will conclude that the Sinai claim is the most reasonable hypothesis.

In other words, his methodology is that a reasonable person, looking at reasonable evidence, will reasonably conclude that the evidence is good.

Yet, when it comes to Scientific evidence, which at the very least is certainly as strong as the evidence for Sinai, and really anyone reasonable will agree it is significantly stronger than the evidence for Sinai, suddenly he claims that’s no evidence, because its trumped by a literal reading of Breishis. So he invents this ‘Nes-Nisayon’ theory (or rather copies it from a Christian. I assure you that this theory has NO solid source in traditional Judaism).

So really, what we have is two sets of conflicting evidence. One set, for Sinai, and one set for Science. Reconciliationists like me do not find these two sets to be in conflict, and we can come up with some reasonable answers. But according to Gosseleib, it’s impossible that both sets are actually true. So he trumps Science with Sinai, and comes up with his wacky peshat that the scientific evidence is all fakery.

But if we can discount the very reasonable scientific evidence as fakery, in order to preserve the Torah, why not discount the Torah as fakery, to preserve the Science? If anything, that is a much more reasonable approach, since the Scientific evidence is so much stronger. And you can’t claim that the Torah must be true, because that’s the very thing he sets out to prove in the first place!

It makes no sense, and a supposed ‘logician’ as he claims to be should be ashamed to spout such nonsense. I still maintain that he’s just not that stupid, so it’s a shame that the power of the extremists is so strong, and his moral fiber so weak, that he caved in. It’s really quite pathetic, and a rather sad reflection on the state of things today in the frum world.

How can we answer the claims of the skeptics and disaffected BT’s when some of the supposed Kiruv Experts show themselves to be so foolish? What a bizzayon. Not only have I lost confidence in the Gedolim, but also in the ‘stars’ of the Kiruv Industry.

Is there no one out there with any sechel? (and still frum?)

Monday, November 7, 2005


Gottleib has a long article on why its rational to believe in Sinai. He brings all sorts of rational proofs about how it couldn't have been made up. It's somewhat convincing and well presented. But now I see that when it comes to Breishis & Science, all of a sudden the whole thing is a miracle. This is an extremely non-rational approach.

So why believe in Torah? Maybe some other diety, lets call him Zoboomafoo, davkah created false evidence that the Torah was given on Sinai, as a nisayon to believe in him? Is there any difference between these two claims? Lets say that Zoboomafoo has engineered most of history as one gigantic nisayon. Whose to say otherwise?

Once you succumb to this kind of insane, non-rational reasoning all bets are off. There is no more capacity for logical thought, or rationally proving anything. Maybe all the Gedolim are one big nisayon from Zoboomafoo? Maybe the Torah is a nisayon? Maybe we were all created yesterday? Everything becomes one crazy game of justifying impossible beliefs. I cannot believe that Gottleib is that stupid. He surely realizes this. I can only conclude that he is an intellectually dishonest coward, who has given into pressure from the Gedolim and the Kannoim.

A very sad day for Judaism, for Kiruv, and for Gottleib himself.

Gottleib endorses Gosse!

WARNING: Emunah Threat

[I'm really dissapointed in R Dovid Gottleib. I have been having a correspondence with 'Mark', a friend of his, and he was almost to the point of convincing me that Gottleib was a sensible guy. Then I saw this bunch of nonsense, where Gottleib endorses Gosse Theory (Ness/Nissayon).]

The age of the the universe according to science is approximately 13 billion years; the Jewish date is 5755 years since Creation. There is a direct solution to this “contradiction”. The real age of the universe is 5755 years, but that it has misleading evidence of greater age. The bones, artifacts, partially decayed radium, potassium-argon, uranium, the red-shifted light from space, etc. - all of it points to a greater age which nevertheless is not true. G-d put these things in the universe and they lead many to the false conclusion of a much greater age.

Let's first understand that G-d certainly can do this if He wishes. There is no logical impossibility in imagining such indicators of false age. Furthermore, something like this is part of the naive understanding of Genesis. Adam was created as an adult. Observing him a few minutes after he was created, we would assume him to be at least twenty years old: he was created with misleading symptoms of greater age than he possessed. The trees created in the Garden of Eden presumably had tree rings. Tree rings usually indicate the age of the tree, but in this case the rings are misleading evidence of age the trees did not possess. So the idea is not inherently absurd.

The usual response to this idea is: "Why would G-d do that? Why would He want to mislead us in that way?" Now strictly speaking we don't have to answer that question. Knowing why G-d would do it is not a prerequisite to asserting that He did it. Often we don't know why people do various things; that does not lead us to doubt that they did them! Nevertheless, even though we don't need to answer the question, we can. Briefly, the purpose of the physical world is to hide G-d's presence so that we can exercise free will. In fact, the Hebrew word for "world" - olam - means "hiding". So evidence which hides the true age of the universe since Creation would be part of the general policy of hiding G-d's presence.

Some people [GH: Me!!!!] are surprised by the idea that G-d would create evidence that would mislead people. Perhaps He will not give us overwhelming evidence of the truth, they think, but He would not create evidence that will lead to false beliefs. But this is a mistake. First – not having enough evidence of the truth can also lead to false beliefs. Second, G-d’s constant providence is hidden by the appearance of nature. The world looks as if it runs blindly, automatically. The truth is that events are guided by G-d. The appearance of nature leads us to miss this truth.

Of course, G-d does not condemn us to ignorance. He TELLS US the truth! And the same holds for the age of the universe. The misleading physical evidence leads to the false belief in billions of years. He reveals to us that this conclusion is wrong. [GH: This is insane]. A more sophisticated objection to the second solution is this. Can we not defend any arbitrarily chosen age for the universe by this logic? If we said the universe is 50,000, or 500,000, or 5,000,000 years old, we could always say that the evidence of greater age was due to misleading evidence put there by G-d! Doesn't this trivialize the whole project? It means that there is no objective standard at all for deciding how old the universe is!

The answer to this objection is as follows. Indeed, if we were to use this logic without any limits, it would trivialize all investigation in the age of the universe. But we are suggesting that it be used to resolve a contradiction between two generally reliable sources of information. Under these conditions it is wholly appropriate. I will give you an analogy. Suppose George is accused of murder, and we have his fingerprints at the scene of the crime, the murder weapon at his premises, and he has a motive. Suppose the only argument put forward by the defense is that George is being framed. That will surely not be taken seriously. To take it seriously would undermine almost all attempts to convict, since almost always it is possible that the defendant is being framed. But now suppose we have a witness who claims to have seen George 100 miles from the crime at the time when it occurred. Now we have a contradiction in the evidence. Now it surely would be appropriate to suggest the possibility of a frame-up and to investigate that possibility. After all, frame-ups do sometimes happen. Our case is strictly parallel. To suggest that G-d hid the true age in defense of any arbitrarily chosen age is wrong. But to use that suggestion to solve a contradiction in the evidence is perfectly appropriate.

Of course, this solution assumes that the Jewish tradition does have enough evidence to be regarded as generally reliable. I believe that this is true, but defending it requires a much larger effort. [See for example my Living Up to the Truth, at http://www.dovidgottlieb.com/publications.htm.] In the mean time, given that premise, the analogy with prosecuting crime holds. Therefore it seems to me that this second solution is perfectly adequate to reconcile the two ages of the universe: the Jewish date gives the real age, while the scientific estimate is the result of reading misleading evidence.

[GH: I have lost all respect for him. If someone so respected in Kiruv can be so foolish, what does that say? Further damage to my emunah in these people.]

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Was Noach a real person?

People often come to me and say ‘Hey Godol, do you believe there was a flood?’, and I say ‘Of course I do!’, and they walk away happy. What I don’t tell them is that the flood in question ruined my basement and I had to replace all the carpets. I considered the idea of trying to find a carpet guy called Noah, but this proved too difficult, plus the lady at Carpet Depot thought I was a bit strange.

There are literally hundreds of flood stories (myths) from many different cultures around the world. Here is a compilation. On hearing this, a typical fundamentalist response is 'See, Noach must be true! All these other stories confirm it'. However a global flood is pretty much impossible according to Science. Of course it could all have been a ness, except that the evidence shows it never happened. Of course maybe the ness also included cleaning up all the evidence afterwards too, but then that starts to get a little wierd. Hayim claims that maybe the flood water was magic water which left no mess. A mess-less ness! Could be, could be.

(Here are some difficulties with the concept of a global flood.)

Some people claim the flood was local to Mesopotamia, and when the Chumash repeatedly says 'all' (all the earth, all the heavens, all the animals etc) it just means 'all the local'. This is possible, but then what's the point of the story? A guy survives a small local flood on a boat with some animals. People on the edge of the flood were not affected, and while it might have been a big deal for that one guy, it certainly wasn't for the rest of the world. That doesn't really fit with the story, and you really have to stretch and kvetch a lot.

Another approach is Cassuto/Sarna, which I termed Myth Moshol. Flood mythology was very prevalent in the ancient near east, and the Israelites would certainly have been aware of it. However rather than accepting the Sumerian mythology of Utnapishtim, Gilgamesh or whatever, where the gods bring the flood because people were getting too noisy, the Torah turns the flood story into an ethical monotheistic morality story.

According to this, it turns out that Noach wasn't too real. This is upsetting to many people (me too), because we like Noach, even more than Adam. Also, it is jarring, since the Torah records some specific details about Noach's life and progeny, and accepting it as mythology makes the Torah look a little suspect.

Ultimately, there is no really satisfying answer to this problem (from an Orthodox perspective, if you are not Orthodox, it's not a question). I suppose I can sympathize with Rav Mattisyahu Solomon, who claimed we should all just say Taiku and wait for Moshiach. Meanwhile the flood story continues to inspire countless generations including mine, and at the last count we have the following:
  • Flood themed crib set
  • Noahs Ark painting
  • Flood wallpaper border
  • TevahTzedakah Box
  • Tevah Menorah
  • Fisher Price Noah's Ark Set

So what do I really think? I think there was cdertainly some major flood in Mesopotamia, probably about 8000 years ago. It's possible that there was a guy called Noach on a boat with a bunch of animals, who was saved miraculously. But somehow I doubt it. Still, believing in Noach is not one of the ikkarim, and saying that Noach was mythical is certainly NOT kefirah, contrary to the lunatic rantings of people like ZooShoteh (keshmo ken hu) and FKM (Freaking Kiruv Maniac).