Friday, September 22, 2006

The truth, the partial truth, and everything but the truth

Another nutty theory from Avodah:

"The mabul happened, but the scientist lives on the wrong plane of reality to experience its aftereffects. That would explain why the human record is full of myths founded in the mabul experience, but the ground shows nothing. Why people both remember the flood and remember building societies elsewhere at the time (and before migdal bavel!)".


I have a much better explanation: The human record is full of myths about massive floods because ..... lots of massive floods actually happened! Amazing how that works! But none of them were the 'mabul' by any stretch of the imagination.

Same author goes on to say:

There is only one emes. It's not a matter of "sufficient to contradict" as though we're playing a game and looking to see who has more points. Both sources of data must be in concert. If they aren't, then obviously I don't understand one or the other.

What's incredibly silly about this statement, and indeed about the whole discussion, is that the statement "both source of data must be in concert (i.e. Torah & Science) is of course a faith based belief.

The author doesn't hold that the Koran and Science must be in concert, nor does he hold that the Upanishads and Science must be in concert. Only Torah and Science must be in concert. Yet, based on this faith-based belief, we have spawned an entire industry of pundits looking to 'reason' to reconcile their core faith beliefs with science.

Either your methodology is based on reason and evidence, or it's based on faith and tradition.

If it's based on the former, then all the Science & Torah questions don't even start, as the global community of scientists has conclusively shown. According to this methodology, there is no good reason or evidence whatsoever to believe that the Torah is a source of inerrant historical truth (especially in early Breishis), so there's no conflict. End of discussion.

If it's based on the latter, then all the Science & Torah questions don't even start, as the global community of Gedolim has conclusively shown. There is no possibility that the Torah could be wrong, so any conflicts from science must be incorrect, for one reason or another.

Of course we have a third camp, those who want to keep their fundamentalist faith and also their science. They somehow want to base their methodology on both faith and reason. Since they 'believe' both must be true, they twist themselves into pretzels dodging and weaving trying to make sense of it all. The basis of their methodology is neither pure faith nor pure reason, but rather 'both must be true!' (which is in fact just faith).

Read this post for a good example.

Problem is, it doesn't work.

Bigger problem is, it makes the people desperately trying to make it work look very, very silly.

Biggest problem is, many of these people might otherwise have great things to contribute to
man's search for meaning, but they waste their time on trying to reconcile the unreconcileable and defend the indefensible.

When will they have the honesty to admit that?

On the other hand.....

The masses can't be expected to be told the cold hard truth, and yet still be passionate about Torah & Mitzvos. Once people realize what's true and what's not, they will lose their faith, and descend into the nihilistic hedonism common in popular culture (quite possibly).

Even hard core atheistic humanists try to make a case for Judaism, (see 'Respecting The Wicked Child' by Mitchell Silver), because they recognize the value of it. And there's no doubt that in this century at least, Orthodoxy is a far more viable form of Judaism than Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist.

And arguments from Dawkins, Dennett and Harris that without religion the world would be a better place just aren't that convincing, see the review by the Chief Rabbi in a post below.

So, we want the values, beauty and lifestyle of religion (well, most of it), but we recognize most of it isn't true, or certainly not true enough to warrant 100% pure belief. However a community composed entirely of skeptics doesn't seem to work, and will inevitably tear itself apart just like Conservatism is doing before our very eyes. The Halachah has value (mostly), as this article by David Hazony demonstrates quite well.

I think many of us skeptics have come to the conclusion that truth is not the only fundamental. I posted about this a few weeks ago, also see this recent post by Orthoprax for a nicely written summary of a similar idea.

So what do we do? Ignore the truth? Be party to a pious fraud? Keep our views to ourselves? Form a new branch of Judaism? Just drop it and move on?

Over Yom Tov I heard that a well known Rabbi, Rabbi X, says you only need to believe in some kind of yetziat mitzrayim, and some kind of revelation at Sinai and that's it. I heard this from a very reliable source. And this isn't Rabbi Wolpe, or Rabbi Ismar Shorsh, or Rabbi Neil Gilpin. No! This is a well known Rabbi in the Orthodox community in Israel (speaking pivately of course). And I have heard similar from many other Rabbis too. My own Rabbi deems Judaism to be merely in the realm of the 'plausible', though I doubt he would preach that from the pulpit.

So are we doomed to only be able to admit the truth in private? I wonder if there is a branch of philosophy which deals with the truth, and when it needs to be discarded for the better good of society. Hopefully something more than Truthiness.

Anyone have any suggestions?