Avodah Mailing List
Volume 13 : Number 073
Thursday, August 19 2004
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 05:59:06 -0700 (PDT)
From: Harry Maryles <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Evolution, Creationism, and Punctuated Equilibrium
Akiva Atwood <email@example.com> wrote:
> Cuvier stressed the lack of evidence for the change
> of species contra Darwin, and of course the fossil record in no way
> supports Darwinism.
Just because a theroy has not been proven doesn't mean you abandon
the entire theory, especially when there is so much overwhelming (or
at least... whelming, if not overwhelming) evidence of it. There are
answers. We just haven't discovered them yet.
From a NYT article, May 21, 2002:
> Evolutionary biologists had always ascribed such difficulties to the
> famous incompleteness of the fossil record. But in 1972, (Dr. Stephen
> J. Gould and Dr. Eldredge) proposed the theory of punctuated equilibrium,
> a revolutionary suggestion that the sudden appearances and lack of change
> were, in fact, real. According to the theory, there are long periods of
> time, sometimes millions of years, during which species change little,
> if at all.
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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 09:14:59 +0300
From: Zoo Torah <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Evolution, Creationism, Lice and Other Mythical Creatures
Zev Sero wrote:
>How could a planet that is supposed to have come about naturally have
>gone millions of years without several extinction events?
Easily. It can go for millions of years without any life at all. In
fact, scientists have shown that the planet did indeed go for hundreds
of millions of years with no life at all, and for several more billion
years without any creatures of significant size.
>But the world would certainly have screamed 'fake' if there were no
>extinct species in the record.
I am at a total loss to understand this. Why would it have screamed
'fake'? Someone has to be first! If dinosaurs (assuming they existed)
would have dug and found no fossils of earlier life-forms, would they
have had to assume that the world is fake??!!
[Email #2. -mi
R' Tzvi Lampel wrote:
>the fact is that Evolutionists have a bias to their faith which causes
>them to interpret data to favor their religion, manipulate facts to fit
>their mind set, and create hoaxes to support it.
And Young-Earthers, such as Rav Miller z"l, are not biased? In fact, the
first people to conclude that the earth is more than a few thousand years
old were religious Christians - way before Darwin. They were simply forced
to draw the logical conclusions from the evidence that presented itself.
There's some mixing together of the age of the universe and evolution
to follow - I hope everyone remembers that they are distinct issues.
>...When one uses Torah and mesorah as his starting point, and
>internalizes it, his mind will not have the knee-jerk reaction (if minds
>can react like knee-joints) of those who were indoctrinated with the
>evolution mind set that immediately jumps to the mythical macroevolution
>process as "the" explanation of whatever phenomena they find.
Actually, it's the other way around. It was the structure of creatures
that led in the first place to the idea that animals are all related.
>...Thus, they will not instantaneously conclude, upon seeing resemblances
>between the bodies of whales and other mammals, that one is a descendant
>of the other, any more than one would conclude that my father-in-law's
>Cadillac is a descendent of my Honda Civic--despite the many resemblances
>they have to each other).
I'm not saying that it necessarily proves it. But it does strongly
suggest it. When you have one class of sea-creatures, whales, whose
body structure is radically different from all other sea-creatures, and
is the same as land animals, complete with leg-bones under the skin,
this strongly suggests that they share a common ancestor. Your mashal
is flawed - a better one would be finding a car that looks like it was
put together out of old pieces of a Honda Civic. Your conclusion would
be that it was put together out of old pieces of a Honda Civic.
Besides, it's not just a matter of resemblance. It's that organisms
have vestigial organs and limbs - things that serve no purpose, but
which would make sense if they are left over from an earlier version of
the creature. Thus, again, the most reasonable conclusion is that they
did indeed evolve from other creatures.
Furthermore, the alternative is that they kept on popping into existence
out of thin air over millions of years. There are powerful grounds for
believing that Hashem would have had a more sophisticated method of
bringing them about - just like His incredibly sophisticated method for
running the world, called scientific laws.
>...Nor would (alleged) findings of fossil remains of only one kind of
>creature in a certain locality constitute a compelling reason to imagine
>that no other creatures existed elsewhere at the time.
Agreed. But non-alleged actual findings of fossil remains of hundreds of
assorted kinds of similar creatures (ammonites, or dinosaurs), in hundreds
of localities all around the world, would indeed constitute a compelling
reason to imagine that no other creatures existed elsewhere at the time.
>...(Are cat and dog remains found in elephant graveyards? If you were
>a cat, would you be hanging around a dinosaur?)
If I were a cat, or any of the 4500 species of mammals around today,
I would gladly be hanging around any of the 98% of dinosaurs that were
herbivorous and entirely harmless. If I were a fish, I would gladly be
hanging around ammonites. Since we don't find any such "hangers around"
in any of the hundreds (if not thousands) of fossil locations, the most
reasonable conclusion is that they weren't around at the time.
>... The existence of creature-remains in different places than those
>of other creature-remains tells you at most about the areas where they
>lived and/or died; but zilch about the "eras."
Have you any idea how many dinosaur bones have been dug up? Hundreds of
thousands, from diverse locations scattered all over the world. Including
many areas that are now populated by many other creatures.
Do you believe that there is some gigantic conspiracy among scientists to
prove that the world is billions of years old and to disprove the Bible?
>...Are then these kinds of "proofs" from body resemblances and localized
>fossils really so compelling as to force one to abandon the clear and
>repeated declarations of the Torah that Hashem created, formed and
>perfected the Universe in six days?
When you actually study them, they indeed are this compelling. Especially
since Rambam is quite clear that the Torah's account is not to be
taken literally, "contrary to what the masses believe," and Rav Dessler
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Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2004 22:54:27 -0400
From: Kenneth G Miller <email@example.com>
Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
It has been said that the Torah does not speak about rights, but about
There's not much difference between the two, as they are just two sides
of the same coin. It has been said (http://ohr.edu/yhiy/article.php/656)
that "to the extent that I have obligations you don't need rights."
Nevertheless, there is a difference, and the difference is that of focus:
Is our top priority to worry about what I have coming to me, or what I
must do for others?
With this in mind, it occured to me that there *is* a place where the
Torah seems to put the emphasis on the "rights". Namely, in Shemos 21:10:
"sh'erah, k'susa, v'onasa lo yigra".
I will admit that the verb here is clearly focused on the obligation of
the husband not to withhold these things, but it seems just as clear
that those things are entitlements of the wife. The Torah could have
phrased this in terms of "Make sure to give her these things," (as it
does by tzedaka, for example), but instead, the Torah chose to phrase
it in terms of "These are *her* things; don't hold back."
Yes, of course, she can "hondel" and make whatever deals she wants with
these things, but the starting point is that they are hers to deal with.
Three mappik-hehs in a row.
Just wanted to share those thoughts. Any comments? For example, is
terumah our obligation or the kohen's entitlement? I don't remember.
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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 11:15:13 +0200
From: "Daniel Eidensohn" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: measurements
> The problem is that there exist gemarot in which changing the value of
> sqrt(2) or pi might change the maskana. I think it is clear that chazal
> did not know the "exact" values of these quantitities and it is obvious
> that Rashi and other Rishonim did not know. However, it is not clear
> it makes a difference.
From the sources I cited from R'Beinish it is clearly a dispute amongst
the poskim whether it makes a difference
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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 21:30:20 +0300
From: Akiva Atwood <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Lice
> What Chazal say is ex cathedra.
I wasn't aware that we were talking about catholicism here (the source
of the phrase -- refering to the infallibility of the Pope in matters
of church doctrine)
and "ex cathedra" is the opposite of "eilu v'eilu"
"If you want to build a ship, then don't drum up men to gather wood, give
orders, and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and
endless sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 21:45:33 +0300
From: Zoo Torah <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Lice
R' Daniel Eidensohn wrote:
>I am looking for contemporary poskim who 1) acknowledge the scientific
>reality 2) acknowledge that it apparently contradicts Chazal 3) state
>that because the reality is not in accord with chazal therefore so
>the halacha has changed. This is the view of the Pachad Yitzchok. I am
>not really concerned with whether it is permitted to kill lice but the
>reasoning for either retaining the halacha or changing it.
It can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the reason. Someone once told
me that Rav Moshe Feinstein z"l used "nishtaneh hateva" as a delicate way
of referring to Chazal making errors in science. I found that in some
places in Igros Moshe (unfortunately I don't have the specific sources
at the moment) he refers to "nishtaneh hateva, whether in actuality or
in our knowledge of it." The latter apparently meaning that we know more
about nature than earlier generations.
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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 15:08:37 -0400
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: lice and change of nature
>> Obviously there are great Poskim on both sides of the issue. In
>> category A, the usual reason given is that one cannot really see lice
>> reproduce (you would need a microscope). In category B, our lice of
>> today obviously reproduce (zachar unekeva/betzim) and hence
>> we may not kill them.
> It would be helpful if you indicated whether any of the
> poskim you cited actually state your reasons. A more common
> explanation is that we don't know how to differentiate the
> lice from dirt from other lice and therefore we should be
> machmir. Analysis which looks primarily at the conclusion of
> poskim and not their actual reasoning is not of any use in this issue.
> I am looking for contemporary poskim who 1) acknowledge the
> scientific reality 2) acknowledge that it apparently
> contradicts Chazal 3) state that because the reality is not
> in accord with chazal therefore so the halacha has changed.
> This is the view of the Pachad Yitzchok. I am not really
> concerned with whether it is permitted to kill lice but the
> reasoning for either retaining the halacha or changing it.
Orchos Shabbos 14:30 (Rabbi Gilbor) states that it is better to
refrain from killing lice because "it is known in our days that [lice]
reproduce and it is possible that our lice are not like those mentioned
in the Gemora". In footnote 47 he says that he heard this in the name of
R. Elyashav Shilta, and he also quotes the Toras Shabbos and Lev Chayim
In "The Shabbos Home" Rabbi Cohen provides a partial quote from the
Toras Shabbos: "the scientists write that even headlice reproduce"; the
Toras Shabbos writes that this could be the shita of the Ri Morleans in
Tosefos that biblically prohibits killing lice, and hen concludes that
it is assur to kill lice. [I would very much appreciate the full quote
if anyone has the sefer].
Rabbi Nissan Karelitz Shlita [in Chut Shani] specifically stated that our
"lice lay eggs and if they reproduce it is assur to kill them".
We definitely see the Poskim dealing with the metzios (your point 1),
stating that our lice are different (perhaps contra to your point 2)
and as a result stating that it is good to refrain from (or even assur
to) killing lice (your point 3).
>> I believe that the following is significant. Even if lice do reproduce
>> the *yesod* of the Gemora in Shabbos still stands.
>> Rabbi Herzog in Heichal Yitzchak (OC 29) writes w.r.t. disinfecting
>> milk containers on Shabbos that we are permitted to kill bacteria
>> [which reproduce asexually through fission or spores] on Shabbos, even
>> if they are not harmful, because even science agrees that bacteria do
>> not reproduce in the normal sense of this expression.
>> Thus, should we find a category that fits the Gemora the halacha would
> It is interesting that you cite Rabbi Herzog who states
> clearly in the first paragraph of this very tshuva that "even
> though scientists have declared that lice come from sexual
> reproductions and thus it should be prohibited to kill the
> lice - their view is irrelevant for the halahca since only
> the view of chazal matters." He makes no attempt to say that
> nature has changed - but only that science is irrelevant to
> halacha when it contradicts chazal.
It is interesting. See footnote 48 in the Orchos Shabbos for Rabbi
Elyashiv's pesak on a katan bemakom tzaar.
Kol Tuv ... Jonathan
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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 23:59:17 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Lice
Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer wrote:
> What Chazal say is ex cathedra. So much so that even if in on an
> objective, klapei shemaya galya plane the spiritual (or physical) reality
> is otherwise. Of course, the archetypical instance of this principle
> is BM 59b. V'hu ha'din b'nidon didan. If Chazal ruled that it is muttar
> to kill kinim on Shabbos, heim gozrim v'HKB"H mekayem. It is therefore
> permitted to kill kinim on Shabbos ba'zman ha'zeh as well.
I find this assertion even more difficult to understand than your previous
version. I will try to paraphrase it - please correct me if I am wrong.
RYGB asserts: What chazal say is correct by definition. Even if
objectively it is wrong - it becomes reality because they said it.
Therefore even though R' Eliezar had correctly reported the halacha as
given at Sinai - since Chazal disagreed with him - the Torah was changed
to be in accord with Chazal. Consequently if they say that lice don't
reproduce sexually - that creates a metzius that they don't reproduce
sexually. If they say that it is permitted to kill lice on Shabbos -
even if in Heaven it says otherwise - G-d changes the Torah to accept
the view of Chazal. Therefore for all post Talmudic generations - the
statements of Chazal (both concerning physical reality and halacha) are
to be taken as absolutely true for all time and are not to be modified in
any way - despite apparent clear cut evidence to the contrary concerning
This assertion raises a wide range of questions. When Chazal say that a
heart has three chambers - are we required to say that hearts have three
chambers even though they obviously have four? Tosfos (Eiruvin 76b) had
no right to point out that contrary to Chazal - pi does not equal 3.000?
The Tashbatz was wrong for asserting that one must use mathematically
correct measurements - even if they differ from chazal. The assertion
of nishtane hateva is obviously unacceptable - because Chazal are right
because they are right and G-d changes reality (halachic and physical)
to agree with their statements? Rav Yosef Karo was wrong when he said
the authority of the Talmud comes about because it had been accepted by
Klall Yisroel. He should have said the Talmud is authoritative because
Chazal composed it. The Rambam similarly was mistaken because in his
introduction to Mishneh Torah he likewise fails to give your reason for
the authority of Chazal?
Furthermore those poskim who assert that today one in fact should not
not kill kinim because lice today do reproduce sexually - Rav Eliyashiv,
Rav Nissan Karellitz (according to R' Jonathan Ostroff's posting) and
Rav Kapach - are apparently unaware of your principle?!
Before I continue - I'll wait for confirmation from you that I have
correctly understood what you are asserting.
BTW I just came across the Meshech Chochma's (Bereishis 9:9-10) that
since lice don't reproduce sexually they were not taken on the Ark. This
is the reason that it is permitted to kill them on Shabbos because no
bris was ever made with them. The source for the view that there are
real creatures that are prohibited to kill on Shabbos and their are
incidental creatures formed from certain physical conditions which are
permitted to kill is the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 1:72).
The Meshech Chochma (1843-1926) obviously did not reject spontaneous
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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 19:24:08 GMT
From: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: measurements
R' Eli Turkel wrote <<< If so maybe using pi=3 for some halachot falls
into the same category. The problem is that there exist gemarot in which
changing the value of sqrt(2) or pi might change the maskana. I think it
is clear that chazal did not know the "exact" values of these quantitities
and it is obvious that Rashi and other Rishonim did not know. However,
it is not clear it makes a difference. >>>
We don't know the exact values either. But we have a pretty narrow band
of numbers that it falls between.
Similarly, they too should have had a range of values. Maybe they couldn't
get any more accurate than "somewhere between 3 1/8 and 3 1/6". But it
is very difficult for me to imagine that they really thought that pi
was EXACTLY three.
It would not have been difficult to make an experiment. Build a bowl ten
amos in diameter, and measure the circumference. How high-tech do you need
to be to discover that it is going to be around 31-32 amos? Oh, wait,
I forgot, they *did* do that and found it to be only 30 amos. Nishtaneh
hateva, maybe? Sorry, I'm really not trying to make fun, chalilah, I just
wish I could go back in time and ask them them some of these questions.
Then again, maybe "nishtaneh hateva" is not such a ridiculous
idea. According to those who believe it in regards to reproductive
biology and orbital mechanics, maybe it happened to trigonometry as well?
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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 15:53:56 -0400
From: "Zev Sero" <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Aramaic
Saul Mashbaum <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> What else starts in Hebrew and then continues in Aramaic? Right,
> the qaddish. In siddur Ashira Lashem, RMB writes "The Rav agreed
> with the opinion that the first two words of Kaddish are in Hebrew"
> The vowel under the dalet in each of these words is a patach, as in
> Hebrew, not a tzeire, as in Aramaic.
I think you have that backward. The Rav held that the words were Hebrew
and therefore should be pronounced with *tseres*, whereas the common
nusach with patachs makes them Aramaic (though in fact the patach form can
also be found in Hebrew).
> RBM cites Yechezkel 38:23, the
> source of the phrase "yitgahdahl ve-yitkahdahsh", which is in Hebrew,
> and in which patachim appear under the daletim.
The pasuk has chiriks, not patachs: 'vehitgadilti vehitkadishti'.
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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 15:45:19 -0400
From: "Esti Witty" <email@example.com>
Subject: Children Carrying Tallis
IIRC, this is a makhlokes Tiferes Yisrael in Bo'az and R' Aikiva Eiger,
at the end of the 1st or 2nd perek of Shabbos. RAE assurs (I think even
in a karmelis. I'm uncertain.); Tiferes Yisrael permits. RAE's position
has become known as . . . The Eiger Sanction.
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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 18:02:39 -0400
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Evolution, Creationism, Lice and Other Mythical Creatures
>>...Are then these kinds of "proofs" from body resemblances and
>>localized fossils really so compelling as to force one to abandon the
>>clear and repeated declarations of the Torah that Hashem created,
>>formed and perfected the Universe in six days?
> When you actually study them, they indeed are this
> compelling. Especially since Rambam is quite clear that the
> Torah's account is not to be taken literally, "contrary to
> what the masses believe," and Rav Dessler follows likewise.
I believe that the above statement does not correctly characterize
the Rambam's position. In discussing the creation of the universe vs.
Aristotle's opinion (eternity) he prefaces his remarks (MN II:23) by
writing that in order to overcome our prejuidices of upbringing and
training, we should be knowledgeable in the sciences and philosophy and
we need to be moral and work on restraining our lusts, illicit passions
and anger (perhaps budding biologists and physicists should consider
a visit to the Bais HaMussar :-). Otherwise, says the Rambam, we will
quickly find ourselves deceived by others who will lead us to vain
imaginings. It is for this reason, he writes, that we must be faithful
to the authority of the two prophets (Moshe and Avraham).
The Rambam in his 13 principles called the Creation ex nihilo the "yesod
hagadol" a title he never used with the other ikkarim. He stated that
the whole of the Law stands on this Principle.
From Aristotle until about 50 years ago (i.e. for 2500 years) the
greatest scientists including Einstein thought that the universe was
The big bang theory for a creation event 15 billion years ago came as
a big shock. Infinity to 15-billion is (infinitely) orders of magnitude
more than 15-billion to 5764!
[I discussed this in greater detail in:
How could all the scientists be so wrong for so long?
It's pretty simple really. Not all scientific data have equal credibility,
for our scientific beliefs in the data can be based on:
(a) repeatable observable phenomena
(c) extrapolation and
(d) deep theory
If you heat water to 100C it boils (that's an observable-repeatable). Even
then, if you go to the top of a mountain, or add salt to the water, the
consequent no longer follows and the statement must be suitably qualified.
As you go down the list, the data becomes less credible. After all,
when you interpolate between data points (say temperature of the water
vs. density) with a straight line, you don't know what the value is --
you are just making a reasonable guess, that is all.
If you extrapolate from the current data, things become even less sure.
Extrapolation tells us that if water contracts at 80C and even more
at 60C then by extrapolation it should contract even further at 4C. As
independent evidence let me point out that all other liquids contract
as you remove heat beyond 4C.
We all know that it is one of those wonderful anthropic coincidences
that, anomalously, water expands at 4C. Without this anomaly oceans
would freeze and life would become impossible. This is one of hundreds of
"coincidences" that Michael Denton says triggers a Design Inference.
Most of the current dating methods (including the big bang) weigh in
heavily towards (c) and (d) especially when you backward extrapolate from
a few years of observation to billions of years. The various independent
lines of evidence supporting the big bang theory, radiometric dating
and the like (even ignoring various dating anomalies) are no greater
than the evidence that was used to show the truth of Newtonian physics
from independent lines of evidence in astronomy, electricity, heat,
optics, motion etc. General relativity and quantum mechanics, of course,
demonstrated that the extrapolation of Newtonian physics from a small base
of observations to the whole universe was fatally flawed and dead wrong.
The Ramban stated that Maaseh Beraishis is a "yesod amuk" and yet he
stated that it happened in seven 24 hour days. A non-literal explanation
does not require billions of years or eternity. Similarly the Rambam (in
MN II:30) considers the creation of Adam HaRishon from dust in 12 hours
(see the Midrash quoted by Rabbi Kapach in the footnote), the tree of
knowledge and the talking serpent on the 6th day as entirely possible
because in the first 6 days "the laws of nature were not permanently
This is a vital and important insight that cannot be sufficiently
stressed. The properties of an object as it is now "furnishes no clue
of the state of that object preceding its completion" [MN II:17]
I claim that (a) the Rambam believed in a normal 24 hour 6th day of
creation in which Adam HaRishom emerged fully created; (b) the Rambam
would not accept the current evidence based on backward extrapolations and
deep theory which should in no way cause us to depart from the authority
of Moses and Abraham, in addition to the fact that the scientific evidence
fails to take into account the singularities (violations of natural law)
of the Creation, the fall of Adam HaRishon and the Flood.
Science is wonderful and exciting and useful. But we should not forget
recent history in which we saw the overthrow of an eternal universe,
determinism and many other deeply held scientific beliefs which should
remind us that "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat
it" [George Santayana].
RNS seems to think that the fossil evidence is "compelling". However, from
(and including) Darwin until today the fossil record actually contradicts
Darwin's uniformatarian evolutionary view of the world. Darwin's
prediction that we would find countless transitional forms in the earth
has proven stunningly empty.
"Although paleontologists have, and continue to claim to have, discovered
sequences of fossils that do indeed present a picture of gradual change
over time, the truth of the matter is that we are still in the dark about
the origin of most major groups of organisms. They appear in the fossil
record as Athena did from the head of Zeus-full-blown and raring to go,
in contradiction to Darwin's depiction of evolution as resulting from
the gradual accumulation of countless infinitesimally minute variations,
which, in turn, demands that the fossil record preserve an unbroken
chain of transitional forms."
[Jeffrey H. Schwartz - Professor of Anthropology, University of
Pittsburgh, USA, "Sudden Origins: Fossils, Genes, and the Emergence of
Species," in The Anatomical Record, Official Publication of the American
Association of AnatomistsJohn Wiley & Sons: New York NY, 1999, p. 3.]
"No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long.
It seems never to happen. Assiduous collecting up cliff faces yields
zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation
of change over millions of years, at a rate too slow to really account
for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history.
When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows
up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the organisms did
not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on someplace else.
Yet that's how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist
looking to learn something about evolution."
[Niles Eldredge - Chairman and Curator of Invertebrates, American Museum
of Natural History. "Reinventing Darwin: The Great Evolutionary Debate,"
(1995), phoenix: London, 1996, p. 95.]
===Berra's Blunder -- on fosssils, cadillacs and corvette's===
I enjoyed RTL's post on fossils and cadillacs :-)
In the Icons of Evolution (an ID book currently under attack by the
biological "establishment") Wells writes about homologies. Biologists
rely on homologies to arrange fossils in branching trees that supposedly
show ancestor-descendant relationships. In his 1990 book, Evolution and
the Myth of Creationism [Stanford university Press], biologist Tim Berra
[Professor Emeritus of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology at the
Ohio State University] compared the fossil record to a series of Corvette
models: "If you compare a 1953 and a 1954 Corvette, side by side, then
a 1954 and a 1955 model, and so on, the descent with modification is
But Berra forgot to consider a crucial, and obvious, point: Corvettes,
so far as anyone has yet been able to determine, don't give birth to
little Corvettes. They, like all automobiles, are designed by people
working for auto companies. In other words, an outside intelligence. So
although Berra believed he was supporting Darwinian evolution rather
than the pre-Darwinian explanation, he unwittingly showed that the
fossil evidence is compatible with either. Law professor (and critic of
Darwinism) Phillip E. Johnson dubbed this "Berra's Blunder."
Kol Tuv ... Jonathan
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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 18:32:20 -0400
From: "Jonathan Ostroff" <email@example.com>
Subject: Pi ( was Lice)
> Tosfos (Eiruvin 76b) had no right to point out
> that contrary to Chazal - pi does not equal 3.000?
> The Tashbatz was wrong for asserting that one must use
> mathematically correct measurements - even if they differ
> from chazal.
Tosefos HaRosh (Eruvin 14a) specifically states that the value of Pi is
not in disagreement with Chazal. When the Talmud says "mena hani mili"
(A) How do we have a licence to record Pi as 3, i.e. as an
appoximation. The Talmud anwers that the licence is from Scripture
(i.e. Solomon's pool where it is also recorded approximately).
The Raavad (quoted by Meri 76b) and the Tashbatz agree with the pehat
of the Tosefos Harosh. These Rishomim state that we must use the actual
mathematical value of Pi in halacha, and this is what Chazal meant.
Even Tosefos does not actually state that Chazal were wrong. They merely
raise the issue that there is an apparent contradiction.
Some Achronim (e.g. the Chazon Ish) also understand the Talmud as per
(A), except that what Chazal are asserting is that you may actually
use the approximation. This is not at all so strange as engineers use
approximations all the time (depending on context). The Chazon Ish and
the MB agree that Chazal were well aware that Pi = 3 is approximate.
Kol Tuv ... Jonathan
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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 18:35:11 -0400
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Lice
At 02:30 PM 8/18/2004, you wrote:
>> What Chazal say is ex cathedra.
>I wasn't aware that we were talking about catholicism here (the source
>of the phrase -- refering to the infallibility of the Pope in matters
>of church doctrine)
Chazal are equally infallible in matters of Halacha.
>and "ex cathedra" is the opposite of "eilu v'eilu"
No, indeed. Not if all statements, even those that are in disagreement
are ex cathedra.
[EMail #2. -mi]
>RYGB asserts: What chazal say is correct by definition. Even if
>objectively it is wrong - it becomes reality because they said it.
>Therefore even though R' Eliezar had correctly reported the halacha as
>given at Sinai - since Chazal disagreed with him - the Torah was changed
>to be in accord with Chazal. Consequently if they say that lice don't
>reproduce sexually - that creates a metzius that they don't reproduce
>sexually. If they say that it is permitted to kill lice on Shabbos -
Nope. They may well still reproduce sexually. Halachic reality is not
necessarily congruent with physical reality. To put it crudely and
oversimplistically, Halachic reality does nor define natural processes,
but whether an act will land you in Olam Ha'Bo or Gehinnom.
>even if in Heaven it says otherwise - G-d changes the Torah to accept
>the view of Chazal. Therefore for all post Talmudic generations - the
>statements of Chazal (both concerning physical reality and halacha) are
>to be taken as absolutely true for all time and are not to be modified in
>any way - despite apparent clear cut evidence to the contrary concerning
Only concerning Halacha, not concerning physical reality.
(Although there are such opinions: "Once, however, local psak determined
local reality. HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Michel Gordon zt"l of Lomza related
that an indivdual in Volozhin suffered from a certain form of lung
disease. The person intended to leave the city and move to a place with
better air. The individual's father appeared to him in a dream and
told him that his specific form of lung disease was the subject of a
machlokes between the Rema and the Sha'agas Aryeh. The Rema held that if
this particular form of lung disease occurs in a cow, then the animal is
treif, as it is incapable of living for another year. The Sha'agas Aryeh,
however, had paskened that an animal with this disease was nonetheless
kosher. (The fascinating history of the psak of umma haserucha ladofen im
makka badofen is well documented. See, for instance, Makor Baruch chap. 17
section 2.) The father therefore warned his son to remain in Volozhin. His
rationale was that in Volozhin, the Sha'agas Aryeh's town, the psak -
and therefore the Ratzon Hashem - followed the ruling of the Sha'agas
Aryeh. The disease would not threaten this person's life as long as he
remained there. Were he, however, to leave Volozhin, he would fall under
the ruling of the Rema and would be at mortal risk. (I am indebted to
Rabbi Avraham Kivelevitz for finding the source of this ma'aseh in Rabbi
Menachem M. Yashar zt"l's essay in the She'eilos U'Teshuvos Sha'agas Aryeh
Mahaduras Machon Chasam Sofer note 2.)" - from my Eilu va'Eilu essay.)
>This assertion raises a wide range of questions. When Chazal say that a
>heart has three chambers - are we required to say that hearts have three
>chambers even though they obviously have four? Tosfos (Eiruvin 76b) had
>no right to point out that contrary to Chazal - pi does not equal 3.000?
>The Tashbatz was wrong for asserting that one must use mathematically
>correct measurements - even if they differ from chazal. The assertion
>of nishtane hateva is obviously unacceptable - because Chazal are right
>because they are right and G-d changes reality (halachic and physical)
See above. Naflu kol ha'kushyos. As list lurker RDG sent me from his
elter-zeide, the DR zt"l:
> Let us now return to our main topic, which is that the safeguarding
> of the Oral Torah by reducing it to a canonical text implies that the
> principle "even should they say that right is left and left is right,"
> which, according the Scripture, applied only to the generation of
> that specific Sanhedrin, has, since the redaction of the Mishnah and
> the Talmud, been made permanent for all generations. In other words,
> should a later generation find that the authors of the Mishnah or the
> Talmud were in error, we have no choice but to follow the opinion agreed
> upon by the early authorities whether it be for leniency or stringency.
> For it is, as the Hinukh wrote, it is better to suffer a mistake in
> one halakhah than, Heaven forbid, to tear down the entire structure.
> And even concerning matters that rest upon science or other disciplines,
> we may not depart from what was accepted as halakhah in the Mishnah or
> the Gemara. And this is what the Sages meant by the remark in Hulin 54a,
> "And is it permissible to add to the tereiphot? We have only what the
> Sages have enumerated." The Rambam (hilkhot shehitah 10:12-13) explains
> this passage as follows:
> And we may not add to these treiphot at all, for any injury or disease
> that befalls a domesticated or undomesticated animal or a foul other
> than what was enumerated by the Sages of earlier generations, which
> were accepted by Jewish courts, may not be fatal. And even should it
> become known to us through medical science that an injury or disease not
> enumerated by the Sages is fatal, and similarly if it should become known
> to us through the current medical science that one of the injuries or
> diseases enumerated by the Sages as a treipha is not necessarily fatal,
> we have only what our Sages enumerated for it is written "according to
> the tenor of law that they will teach you" (al pi ha-torah asher yorukha)
> Now come and see how far the view of the Rambam is from that of the
> Rashba in his responsum 98 in which he seeks to deny, on the strength
> of the tradition of Hazal, the reality that is evident to everyone.
> But the Rambam had a different view when he said that since it had been
> accepted in Jewish courts that these injuries and diseases were treiphot,
> and through the redaction of the Talmud that acceptance had been preserved
> for the generations, we have only what the Sages enumerated whether
> it be for leniency or stringency. And the proof is that concerning a
> murderer we judge him based on the evaluation of the physicians whether
> it be for leniency or stringency, and we do not consider the tradition
> of Hazal concerning the treiphot of an animal.
> You will also find that the halakhah is decided in Orah Haim 316:9 that
> one is not liable for killing a louse on the Sabbath. And in Yoreh Dei'ah
> 84 that it is permissible to eat cheese and fruit that are wormy as long
> as the worms are not separated from the food. And these laws are based
> on the agreement of Hazal in Shabbat 107b that these creatures come into
> existence by themselves and do not procreate. And the Talmud asks there:
> "Do lice really not procreate? Did not our master say the Holy One Blessed
> Be He sits and sustains everything from the horns of rams to the eggs of
> lice" (qarnei r'eimim). And the Talmud can respond only by resorting to
> a forced answer that there is a species that is named the eggs of lice
> (qarnei r'eimim). And in truth it has been scientifically determined
> that there is no living creature that comes into existence without
> procreation. Nevertheless, the law does not change, even to become more
> stringent, in opposition to the decision and agreement of our Sages.11
> It is certainly true that a scientific consensus is only a provisional
> truth, inasmuch as it is always possible that a more enlightened
> generation will arise and will demolish all the earlier constructs.
> But it is also true that if we were not bound by the agreement of the
> Sages of the Talmud, peace be upon them, we should judge every halakhic
> question according to the contemporary state of knowledge just as I
> have shown you that we judge a murderer according to the evaluation of
> the doctors at any given time. And should they say that this injury is
> fatal, we should then execute the murderer and we should not say to them
> perhaps there is some potion of which we are not aware that would cure
> him if it were administered. For that is why it is written "and to the
> judge who is in office in those days."
> So it obvious that if Hazal were deciding then according to the current
> state of scientific knowledge, knowing that all living creature procreate,
> they would not have allowed the killing of a louse on the Sabbath or to
> eat wormy cheese just because the preceding generations had believed
> that these living creatures are generated spontaneously. For as the
> Rambam wrote, it is permissible for a court to overturn the rulings of
> earlier courts even if it is not as great as its predecessor in wisdom
> or in numbers. That they did not refrain from contradicting the rulings
> of predecessors because their predecessors were wiser or knew more than
> they did was true even concerning the interpretation of Scripture, and
> how much more so concerning matters that are contingent on scientific
> understanding. For what if their predecessors were wiser or did know
> more, was it not written concerning this: "and to the judge who will be
> in office in those days." And you will see that the Sages said in Eruvin
> 13b that the reason that they did not establish the law in accordance
> with the opinion of R. Meir was that they could not fathom the depth of
> his reasoning.
> However, all this was possible only as long as the tradition and the
> interpretation was not written down and sealed with an iron pen and a
> secure nail. But once it came to pass that there was an overwhelming
> necessity to ensure the survival for generations of the Oral Law, we
> have no authority to change even the end of a "yod" in what they agreed
> to and what they decided upon whether it concerns the interpretation of
> Scripture or it concerns scientific understanding. For all their Torah
> is holy for us, and we may not depart from it, just as the Rambam wrote
> in hilkhot shehitah, as I quoted earlier.
As I responded to RDG, perhaps I remembered his position without
remembering that I saw it there.
>to agree with their statements? Rav Yosef Karo was wrong when he said
>the authority of the Talmud comes about because it had been accepted by
>Klall Yisroel. He should have said the Talmud is authoritative because
>Chazal composed it. The Rambam similarly was mistaken because in his
>introduction to Mishneh Torah he likewise fails to give your reason for
>the authority of Chazal?
We have discussed this here in the past - the acceptance is the flip side
of the coin of their capacity to determine Halachic reality ba'elyonim.
Their capacity to be po'eil ba'elyonim is the reason why there was
>Furthermore those poskim who assert that today one in fact should not
>not kill kinim because lice today do reproduce sexually - Rav Eliyashiv,
>Rav Nissan Karellitz (according to R' Jonathan Ostroff's posting) and
>Rav Kapach - are apparently unaware of your principle?!
Nope. RYSE stated quite clearly that he is choshesh that our lice are not
the same lice that Chazal considered. Lu yitzuyar that you could convinve
RYSE that our lice are ben achar ben :-) the same lice that Chazal had,
then ipso facto he would be mattir killing the lice.
>Before I continue - I'll wait for confirmation from you that I have
>correctly understood what you are asserting.
I hope I have clarified that you did not understand what I was asserting.
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