Avodah Mailing List
Volume 14 : Number 046
Wednesday, December 22 2004
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 10:35:36 -0500
From: "" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Torah and Science
email@example.com posted on: Dec 20, 2004 (under Subject: Re: Kabbalah
> Unlike RZL's presentation, Chazal do not say the universe was created old;
> it's a machloqes tana'im.
Okay, I'm bracing myself. Where's this machloqes tana'im? (Do any
say Adam was created as an infant, or that the tree he ate from
was a seed? And anyway, the Rambam--whom virtually everyone in this
discussion is claiming for support--certainly takes on this shitta of
a maturely-created world, no?)
> However, I'm also bothered the equal and opposite reaction. The mesorah
> does support options other than saying science is exploring a false
> history, or that it's simply wrong. The full spectrum of Torah throught on
> the subject is far more complex and subtle. Taking a simple and extreme
> stand may be a comforting way to deal with challenge, but digging in
> one heels when unnnecessary won't produce emes.
Are you referring to my posts? I've indicated my concession that allowing
for the creation of previous physical worlds, based upon Midrashim, is
mentioned halfheartedly by rishonim as a fall-back position, but one they
nevertheless painstakingly avoided. My posts are about what we /ought to/
accept, not what is /possible/ to accept. Another approach is describing
the creation of the world as an unfathomable event that has left behind
results that mislead scientists as to the world's actual history. Either
is saying that science is exploring a false history. What are the other
mesorah-supported options you are referring to?
> To put it another way: If one truly gives weight to both sets of data
> that HQBH gave us, both the world and his Torah, the science isn't mucrach
> that the universe is less than 7,000 years old, nor is the Torah muchrach
> that it is. Taking either side is actually dismissing one of His "Books"
> for the sake of the other.
As I have posted, accurate analysis of the apparent age of the world
would help reveal at what stage of maturity the world was created--an
interesting research project, if anyone would (or could) seriously pursue
it. (Although the Rambam would be averse to trying explain why Adam was
created at 30 years old, and the world in geeneral at whatever-years-old.)
> Simply teaching children "there are many approaches, and I am not
> certain which to take" teaches them not try to hide their limitations,
> that there are questions that are beyond human ken, and that we needn't
> dismiss either means of finding truth in order to show that there is
> one Author of both.
> I do not think it is inferior to the "science is wrong" approach fosters
> emunah peshutah. (Which is why I didn't go for II.)
Is something missing from the next-to-last sentence?
Go to top.
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2004 16:21:44 -0500
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
Subject: RE: Torah and Science (a challenge)
I won't go into the details of the arguments below, because I think that
they are irrelevant to the fundamental question:
Is there good quality evidence to convince any one on purely scientific
grounds that the world is much older than 6000 years?
I don't think that there is any dispute in the scientific literature
about that. what there is dispute about what the actual age is - whether
it is the big bang, or whether it is some version of an infinite universe,
or whethe 14 GY or 200 GY - is really irrelevant to the discussion.
I think that there is legitimate room for discussion of the different
alternatives - and legitimate scientific questions as to the truth -
but the set of possible solutions does not include 6000 years. I agree
that trying to construct one's theology on the basis of the big bang
is problematic, because it might be abandoned - and the figure of 14
billion years is not one that is hard and fast - but whatever number it
is, it is more than 6000 years.
Similarly to evolution. There is tremendous discussion in the scientific
literature about evolution - ranging from the mechanistic to the dynamics.
As a particular theory about the mechanism and dynamics (Darwinian) is
sometimes called "Evolution" to the exclusion of others, one can get a
sense that evolution is controversial in the scientific community, and one
can get quotes, etc. about how people disagree about evolution. However,
while there are still fundamental issues about the mechanisms and dynamics
of evolution, the fundamental theses of evolution have been settled by
1) There is a temporal order to the appearance of different phylae,
2) There are changes in species that have been documented over time
3) Phylae/subphylae that appear later seem to have relationships to
phylae/subphylae that appeared earlier.
part 1 that is crucial to our discussions -because the temporal order
involved involves time scales related to the first question - far larger
than 6000 years. How exactly the later species arose from the earlier
ones is a matter of some debate - but that they arose is not. Can one
scientifically disprove that each appearance of a new species/genus/order
is not the result of divine intervention? no. (I can't disprove that it
isn't direct divine intervention on a daily basis that causes the sun to
appear...) However, a theory postulating such intervention would still be
dramatically different than classical creationism. The real issue in the
scientific debates is our ability to have a mechanism that satifactorily
explains the temporal scaling of species - and our ability to do so is
currently far less than our ability to predict planetary motions or the
age of the earth - but that is not quite the same as saying that there
is a substantial debate about evolution
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Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 17:36:20 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Torah and Science
Prof. Aryeh A. Frimer wrote:
>R. Moshe Turetsky (Shu"t Yashiv Moshe YD Hilkhot Sakana, no. 1 p. 158)
>writes in the name of HaRav Elyoshiv shlita, that smoking is o.k. for Jews.
>This is because most of the research in the health dangers of smoking was
>done on non Jewish bodies, so it may not be dangerous for Jews. However he
>wants to say, that this applies only to Jews that eat kosher food, but the
>bodies of Jews that eat non kosher food, are the same as the bodies of non
There are two issues. Are Jews biologically different regarding
the dangers of smoking 1) because of eating kosher food 2) sampling
differences because Jews don't smoke on Shabbos
1) Regarding the first issue there are sources which would apparently
support this contention.
Ramban(Vayikra 26:11) In general when most Jews existed on a high
spiritual level they did not conduct their lives based on natural rules
ג" either for their personal health or the running of society. G-d gave
special bounty in their bread and water and preserved them from sickness
so that they did not need doctors or medical science at all....
Rabbeinu Bachye( Shemos 23:25):... There are certain internal sicknesses
that occur because of certain food and drink and there are sicknesses
which are external that result of such things as change in climate and
alterations of the stars. Therefore this verse promises that when Jews
serve G-d, He will bless man's food and water so they will have the
strength to not to become ill. Therefore the righteous who fulfill the
Torah will have no need for a doctor...
Ibn Ezra( Shemos 23:25): G-d in his kindness chose Israel and taught them
His Torah. If they observe it they become wise. This wisdom guides them
in the straight path so that they are not harmed by anything.... When
the soul is strong than the special heavenly power known as nature gets
stronger and preserves the body. Furthermore this verse says that there
will be a special blessing on all our food and drink. That is necessary
because there is a curse that comes diminish the power of nature as we
find in Micha 6:14): /You will eat but not be satisfied./ All bodily
infirmities come from food which enters the body. However a person
who observes the Torah has no fear of them. That is what is meant by
/He will bless your bread. /There are other illnesses that come for
external reasons due to changes in the atmosphere because of changes
in the Heavenly bodies.... Consequently a person who observes the Torah
has no need for a doctor other than G-d...
2) Regarding significant correlates of being an observant Jew which
alters the smoking pattern. A well known member of the BeDatz who smoked
claiming that the statistics don't apply since an observant Jew's lungs
get weekly rests -- and died from lung diseases. His doctor said --
"his lungs look just like those of a goy who smokes 7 days a week".
Go to top.
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 09:44:49 -0500
From: "Stein, Aryeh" <AStein@wtplaw.com>
Subject: RE: Torah and science
> It is hypocritical in my mind to accept scientific discovery and
> advancement when it comes to our health and welfare while automatically
> rejecting the very same methods when they are applied to study of the
> origins or age of the universe. If you accept one you must accept the
> other. You cannot select one "truth" and reject another just because it
> contradicts a singular pre-conceived religious notion.
I disagree. There is a huge difference between (1) accepting scientific
discovery and advancement for things that can be proven today and through
medical procedures that are effective; and (2) accepting scientific
theories about what happened thousands of years ago. I don't see any
inconsistency between accepting the former and rejecting the latter.
Go to top.
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 08:00:31 -0800 (PST)
From: Harry Maryles <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Torah and Science
> hmaryles posted on: Dec 9, 2004:
>> Have I ever said that we have to fit the Torah to accommodate science
>> Chas V'Shalom? ... We are talking about looking at scientific data and
>> trying to understand how the Torah's narrative is reconciled with it.
> Okay, replace the word "reinterpret" (mine) or "accomodate" with the word
> "reconcile." It's all the same. I'd say reconcile accurate data (not
> merely current claims of what it is, and what the correct interpretation
> of it is) to the Torah.
That's where you are wrong. The phrases are not the same. To reconcile
means we do not change any information but rather try to understand
both sets of data as not contradictory, without changing either the
data or Mesorah. To re-interpret implies change to Mesoarh. I am not
trying to change anything. I only look at the infortmation at hand. The
same thing is true of "accomodate". Accomodation implies changing one
piece of information to in favor of another. As I said, I'm not trying
to change anything. If we have scientific data that contradicts one
version of Mesoarh but fits with another (e.g. the Tifferes Yisrael) you
are not reinterpreting. You are reconciling a non detailed narrative in
the Torah with a legitimate Masoretic interpretion. You have not changed
anything. You have not rejected all previous Mesorah. You have only chosen
that Mesorah which makes the most sense with the newly discovered data.
>> We are not talking about the observance or violation of Mitzvos in the
>> light of scientific knowledge as in the examples you cite.
> No, we are talking about the history the Torah teaches us, which is
> quite clear.
My Torah teaches me that we should Daven Nusach Ashkenaz. What Nusach
do you Daven? Are you saying that there we know exactly what every
Pasuk in the Torah means? That there is no Machlokes in the Gemmarah,
Rishonim? Achronim? You think everything is clear? The Torah narrative
about Maaseh B'teishis is anything but clear it is cryptic and lacking
in any detail.
>> If there is a preponderance of evidence accumulated by various different
>> disciplines that all point to a universe that is older than 5765 years,...
> You continue to utterly ignore the fact that Hashem and Chazal revealed to
> us that He created the world in an aged state,
How do you know? There are other legitimate Torah views that allow
for an aged universe.
> making the age it possesses
> irrelevant to the length of time it's existed. You are expressing emunah
> sh'leima in the attitudes, mindsets, assumptions and intepretations of
> current academia, rather than fitting observable data to the Torah's
No sir. That is what YOU are doing. You are taking scientific observations
and using a sledge hammer (like Nishtana HaTeva... the Mabul changed
nature) to make them fit a singular, narrow interpreation of the Torah's
narrative. Looking at scientific data and searching for Masoretic
precedent is far more intellectually honest then saying the data is
always wrong when it contradicts a singular and narrow Hashkafa which
is not the only legitimate Hashkafa.
>> and there are valid Chazalic, Rishonic, and Achronic interpretations to
>> allow for an older universe...
> The understanding of the proponderance of these authorities has been to
> avoid as much as possible the conclusion that the universe has existed
> for more than around 5,700 years of 365 24-hour days. (I admit it is a
> fall-back position, but, as I said, it is avoided like the plague, and
> fought tooth-and-nail.)
Only by thosw who refuse to acknowledege scietific data. Please
understand that not all data are the same... some is more theory than
data. But to dismiss it all is foolish. Take the scientific
mesurement of time through carbon dating, for example. To say that
nature must have been altered during the mabul is to go to extremes
to explain away a scientific measurement of time. The same is true of
trying to explain seeing today, an exploding star from over a million
years ago away, as having been created mid stream. Is it possibile to
refute all such evidence? Sure. But it is a greater leap of faith to
do so, IMHO. Respected Gedolim throught the ages recognized that
there alternative interpretations of Maaseh B'reishis. These
interpretations support an older universe. You are simply too
stubborn to recognize it.
>> If we can find sources in Chazal that allow for creation days to be G-dly
>> days and not earthly days (i.e... one G-dly day equals 1000 earthly
>> years according to the Tifferes Yisrael) we have already extended
>> creation beyond 6000 years by at least an additional 6000 years. Once
>> you have broken that threshold, you can evaluate scientific evidence
>> that the universe is even older than that if there is various Mesorah
>> to corroborate it
> the Tifferess Yisroel, b'm'chilas k'vodo, was
> responding to what he thought was unbiased scientific opinion. He
> constructed a scenario based upon heretofore denied interpretations
> of Midrashim (such as "previous worlds" meaning physical rather
> than spiritual ones, and the "thousands of years" to be referring
> to past-creation rather than post-creation years [as explained by
> Ramban]). This Midrash-"supported" scenario conformed to, and only
> to, the specific scenario he understood to be the one touted by the
> science of his day. It consisted of a specific number of epochs
> that were subject to destruction, each of which left behind the
> fossil remnants scientists found. I doubt that the scientists of
> his day accepted his version of the events.
It doesn't matter to me how the TY came to his conclusions. Nor do I
care about the conclusions of the scientists of his day... or our day
for that matter. One is entitled to draw one's own conclusions based on
one's own perspectives. It only matters to me that the TY did come to
these conclusions. His understanding of the science of the day could
have been completely wrong. That does not make his interpretations of
Godly days equaling 1000 earthly years wrong. But it does illustrate
an approach that values scientific discovery and tries to reconcile the
facts with the Torah narraitve. It illustrtates that reconcilliation is
better than totally ignoring the facts as we currently understand them.
> That the universe is 15 billion years old is the conclusion to which R
> Aryeh Kaplan came using precisely that method.
> R. A. Kahn has pointed out the difficulties with R. Kaplan, zt"l's
> calculations. And the ages asserted occur before, not during, the
> creations and formations spoken of during the six days of Creation,
> and so again do not really conform to current scientific thought on the
> development of present life.
The details about his views do not concern me. His monumental thesis
detailing how he arrived at a 15 billion year universe through Chazal,
impresses me but is not what is important. It is the fact that he
felt the need to do so that is. Could he be wrong about a detail or
two? Sure. Maybe he was entirely wrong, but that doesn't make him any
less of a Maamin nor any less of a Torah personality than he was. He
was a Torah giant... who recognized the contributions of science and did
not simply dismiss those contributions out of hand. He instead tried to
reconcile them with the Torah.
> Regardless, I would ask the same question
> to Rav Kaplan, were I able: Why abandon the traditional understanding of
> Braishis, when the physical data does not really contradict it?
You can always answer, the world was created to look old. Fine... if
that is your view and satisfies you. It obviates any need to explain
anything scientifically. That is sufficient for some people. But not to
a scientist... nor to me.
Go to top.
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 16:55:46 -0500
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
Subject: Re: Torah and science
> It was related to the post to which I was responding. My
> "chilluk" between
> medicine and surgery on the one hand, and the isssue of the age of the
> universe on the other, was, as I wrote, a response to the question of
> why we rely on the one and not the other.
While there is a hilluk, it is different than what you suppose.
The results of medicine and surgery (and technology and physics -eg
Maxwell's equations) are predicated on a certain methodology - rather than
on the field. It is the accpetance of that methodology in one area, while
the rejection of it in others - not because of fundamental epistemological
issues, but other issues - that is the issue. I differentiate between
good and bad science - not on the content.
> But above all, there is the
> classic approach I've been advocating, that one must nor confuse the
> age of the world with its length of existence. Hashem created the world
> and its occupants with an age. Once this is realized, the age of things
> becomes irrelevant to their period of existence. To this, you respond:
The notion that this is a classical approach is unfounded. If you asked
anyone from before 1400, say, (or the rambam) - he would have had one
of several possible approaches to the age.
1) age is a la torah (or based on some other tradition)
2) tradition that multiple worlds existed (either torah, or eternal
2) world is eternal (either aristotelian or platonic)
However, I don't think that there is any classical tradition that the
world was created 6000 years ago to appear much older.
You are mixing up a different issue. There is a tradition that it
was created fully formed - but that meant something quite different.
It didn't mean that it was created as if it was a much older world.
There is no discussion that I am aware of in any classical source that
there were created things that were made to appear as if the world was
older, to explain its appearing fully formed - eg, evidence for adam of
graves of presumed ancestors or dead animals, etc.
To go back to the embyro analogy - the classical position was that the
world was created fully formed - not there was evidence left of the
placentas and growth stages to reach it.
This is a modern creation - as radical and antitraditional as
anything science has created - and perhaps even more so, because of its
antirationalistic implications (WADR, I find this theory to be acceptable
only on the basis of credo quia absurdum est)
eg, in the rambam's discussion of the different alternatives - one
alternative that he does not suggest (and I think he would have thought
utterly irrational) is that the world was created ~5000 years ago (for
him), but created so as to appear eternal....
> 1. Theoretically, and utopianly, the soundness of relying on one's
> deductions and observations alone sounds lovely. But what can one
> do? History as shown as a fact that one cannot totally rely on the
> deductions one makes from his observations. It's certainly pragmatic
> to do so, but one must always keep an open mind to change. (Isn't this
> what science teaches?) Don't you hold that the scientific opinions
> of past generations, based on what they also confidently considered
> "overwhelming data," were mistaken? So how strongly do you really want
> to "rely" on this one's--independently of mesorah? Must we forever
> play the game of chanting "people used to believe, but now we know,"
> through which every generation is convinced that it has determined the
> undeniable truth? Again, pragmatically we are forced to conduct our
> lives according to our impression of the way things are, but when the
> interpretation conflicts with our mesorah, it should raise a red flag.
1) First, the question of what contradicts our mesora is a question -
and the rambam would have a far more expansive view of what actually
contradicts our mesora
2) Fashions in science change. No one is arguing for the rambam's
science. However, he viewed that one has to work with what is available.
I would argue that whenever our interpretation of the mesora contradicts
science, that should raise a red flag...
(fashions in understanding the mesora also change - and we have to
separate the core from chaff...)
> 2. If these two conclusions are to be considered problematic, then the
> very account of creation, which states that Adam was created to look
> 30 years old, with old trees bearing fruit for him to eat, would have
> been "problematic" -- long before introducing evolutionary theories
> and new discoveries of additional old-looking items. But it hasn't
> been problematic to any classical Jewish thinkers of all the past
> generations. (I said "classical" in case someone digs up some obscure
> commentary someplace that says otherwise.) The fact of Hashem's creating
> the world to look older than it is, has always been the understanding
> of the Torah's account of Creation.
No(see above). Creating a complete world is fundamentally different than
creating a world that reflects a prehistory.
> We can (tentatively) rely on any deduction we make about the observable
> world as long as the Torah doesn't provide us with information that
> shows us we're mistaken. The mesorah, no less than a new geological
> find, is also something to be initially figured into the collection of
> factors that together bring us to our conclusions. We should not first
> make deductions from other observed facts, sans the mesorah, and then,
> if those deductions differ from the mesorah, revise (or "reconcile")
> the mesorah to fit.
Even for this position, you have to know what the mesora actually says.
Again, this goes to a long standing discussion with RMB about (what I
think is pashut) the meaning of the rambam.
>> I would add that the logical implication of this position
> is that the
>> only truth that we can believe in is the mesora - because everything
>> else is potentially falsified ...-
> Sounds pretty basic to me.
It's actually quite radical - not that the mesora is to be believed, but
that it is the only source of real truth - and you view this as basic...
>> ...It is this religious position ...that the world is structured to look
>> in a way different than it is that is problematic from a religious sense,
>> and is incompatible with the position that emunah does not require us
>> to go against the mandates of reason.
> Well, what did you want Hashem to do? He wanted to create a fully mature
> world, and--in order to prevent any misunderstandings--told us clearly
> that He really created it a relatively short time ago.
1) The belief that we understand hashem's agenda is something quite
2) the issue is not the presence of a fully mature world - but a fully
mature world with evidence of it having evolved over a long period...
I don't think that I can convince RZL, but, WADR, IMHO, his theory
represents an extreme antirationalism - which may be popular in some
circles, but is quite untraditional.
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Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 18:46:48 -0500
From: Micha Berger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Torah and Science
On Tue, Dec 21, 2004 at 10:35:36AM -0500, email@example.com wrote:
:> Unlike RZL's presentation, Chazal do not say the universe was created old;
:> it's a machloqes tana'im.
: Okay, I'm bracing myself. Where's this machloqes tana'im? (Do any say Adam
: was created as an infant, or that the tree he ate from was a seed? ...
It's a machloqes R' Eliezer and R' Yehoshua on Rosh haShanah 11a, as
explained by the subsequent gemara. You're assuming the position of R'
Eliezer -- which, BTW, would also require believing that the beri'ah
was in Nissan.
: Regardless, I would ask the same question
: to Rav Kaplan, were I able: Why abandon the traditional understanding of
: Braishis, when the physical data does not really contradict it?
Because your position is NOT the only traditional understanding of
bereishis, and in fact, not insisted upon by any rishon as the only
peshat. Your insistance that it is is in fact the chiddush.
PS: I posted a while back a sevarah from R' Eliezer Ehrenpreis that
this machloqes is the root of the one on the international dateline.
(Whether the sun was created at dawn or at noon over the even shesiyah.)
Check the archive.
Micha Berger The mind is a wonderful organ
firstname.lastname@example.org for justifying decisions
http://www.aishdas.org the heart already reached.
Fax: (270) 514-1507
Go to top.
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 19:26:50 EST
Subject: Re: Three angels real or a vision?
[R' David Riceman:]
> My recollection is that the Abarbanel held that according to the Rambam
> the entire maaseh Sdom was part of Avraham's nevuah, which only ended the
> following morning when "vayashkem [signifying the end of the vision] ...
> vayashkef ... v'hinei laha kitor haaretz [signifying that the portion of
> the vision indicating that Sdom would be destroyed had been fulfilled]".
> How is Avraham's incapacity during that time a kasha on the Abarbanel?
In Avodah V14 #45 dated 12/21/2004 R' Zev Sero writes:
> The question isn't about Avraham, it's about Lot. For the Rambam's
> opinion - that angels cannot manifest themselves physically, and
> therefore that humans cannot interact with them except through nevuah -
> to work, Lot would have to be popping in and out of trances in a manner
> that strains credulity past the breaking point.
So the angels in Sedom were not part of a vision, but were "real"?
> Remember, we're only talking about angels, not Hashem Himself;
> everyone agrees that nobody except Moshe can see Hashem without going
> into a nevuah-trance.
EVEN Moshe Rabeinu could not see Hashem, awake or otherwise. "Kesher
tefillin her'ah le'anav." All Moshe could ever see was the back of
Hashem, whatever that means--probably, the consequences or aftermath of
His passing by. What Moshe COULD do was carry on a conversation with
Hashem while fully awake, which no other navi could do.
> That's why I suggested that even those who generally understand angel
> stories as happening on the physical plane might agree that *Avraham's*
> meeting with the angels did not, because it begins with Hashem appearing
> to him, which *has* to have been in a vision.<<
Yes, Hashem's appearing to Avraham had to be in a vision, but why do
the three angels also have to be a vision? And if you acknowledge that
the angels' visit to Lot in Sedom was real, why do you hold that the
angels' visit to Avraham was not real? At what point does the vision
change over and become reality?
[Email #2. -mi]
In Avodah V14 #45 dated 12/21/2004 R' David Riceman writes:
> According to the Rambam's opinion as understood by the Abarbanel
> we know nothing of what Lot experienced. We know that Avraham saw a
> prophetic vision which included scenes of Lot interacting with angels.
> How to interpret such a prophetic vision is a major subject of the MN,
> but I think it's clear that the Rambam would not have expected each
> detail of Avraham's vision to be reenacted literally in Lot's life.
> Avraham, not Lot, saw angels.<<
If Avraham, not Lot, saw angels, how did it happen that Lot and two
of his daughters left Sedom while the other two did not? How did it
happen that Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt--or did this also
happen only in Avraham's vision? What about Lot's two daughters and
the conception of Amon and Moav?
No matter where you try to put the seam and say, "From here on, it's
real, until here, it's vision," you will have problems.
Go to top.
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 20:48:21 EST
Subject: Re: Torah and Science (a challenge)
In Avodah V14 #45 dated 12/21/2004 R' Jonathan Ostroff writes:
> Even the most blunt contradictions of theory and observation are viewed
> by Big Bang advocates as, at most, the indications of "new physics,"
> never a refutation of the theory. For example, Peebles, in considering
> the void phenomenon, admits that there is an "apparent inconsistency
> between theory and observation," but does not conclude that theory is in
> any way imperiled , rather only that an "adjustment of the model" may
> be necessary. Similarly, Cyburt et al.  agree that there are "clear
> contradictions" between BBN predictions and light element abundances,
> but conclude that "systematic uncertainties have been underestimated,"
> not that the theory is wrong. Consistently new observations have led
> to new parameters, such as dark matter and dark energy, so that the
> number of adjustable parameters in cosmological theories has increased
> exponentially with time, approximately doubling each decade.
Once again you have posted an absolutely fascinating and compelling essay.
However, there is really too much evidence that the world is older than
6000 years old to dismiss it.
I still side with the leftists re days of Bereishis not being literal
24 hour days (and the world being very old--though just how old, I don't
dare to guess), and with the rightists re evolution and the creation of
species. Or somewhere between the rightists and the leftists: I think
some closely-related species evolved from each other, over a longer
period than one literal week.
But I don't think the origin of life, the origin of species, or the
origin of man can be explained by "it just happened."
And Intelligent Design or Guided Evolution violates Occam's Razor one way
or the other. Either it all just happened and we don't need G-d at all,
or G-d created it all, and we don't need evolution. No working scientist
considers Intelligent Design to be a scientific theory, so once we posit a
Designer we are outside the realm of contemporary science altogether. At
that point--in for a penny, in for a pound--we may as well jump right
in and accept a literal, separate creation of each separate species.
I would be quite prepared to jump right in and also accept a young earth,
but the plain physical evidence is too strongly suggestive of an old
earth. Layers and layers of bones, piled generation upon generation
for much longer than 6000 years. Layers of fossils of creatures that
no longer exist, and that appear to have existed not for hundreds or
thousands of years, but for millions. Pieces of continents that fit
together like a jigsaw puzzle--South America and Africa--pieces that must
once have broken apart, and moved away from each other over eons of time.
Fossils of tropical creatures and plants in areas that are now ice-bound.
Fossils of sea creatures thousands of miles from the nearest shore.
You will say that is all extrapolation into the past, and could all have
been created in a moment LOOKING old. Yes, it could have. There is
no proof either way. We can go round and round again on an argument
that by now has been repeated more times than the rings on the oldest
sequoia in Yosemite. IS old? LOOKS old? IS old? LOOKS old? To me,
if it looks old, it is old. The difference is not meaningful to me.
We will call it my personal preference.
It seems to me that my diary is proof I was not created yesterday. I
acknowledge the possibility that both my diary and I were created
yesterday, but it is neither the most plausible nor the most satisfactory
explanation of how my diary came to be.
To complete my straddling of the fence here, I will now lean the other
way and agree with you that the further back in time, the less likely
it is that a straight linear extrapolation into the past will yield
actual truth. In terms of the age of the entire universe, we cannot at
present determine that with any degree of accuracy whatsoever. The age
of our planet? Also impossible to determine--but most likely older
than 6000 years.
Go to top.
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 2004 00:07:49 -0500
From: Isaac A Zlochower <email@example.com>
Subject: Torah and Science
I would like to respond belatedly to Jonathan Ostroff's earlier critique
of my post on the subject. Actually, it is not so much a critique of
what I posted as it is a critique of scientific methodology. [I hope
to respond at length to his current challenge a bit later.] He wrote:
> The current speed of light (just under 300,000km/s) is credible because
> it is based on repeatable observable experiments. However, results at the
> end of a long chain of inferences based on interpolation, extrapolation
> or deep theory are less credible, and of course more vulnerable to future
> experimental disconfirmation.
> In addition, in previous posts, I mentioned stubborn anomalies in current
> dating methods involving order of magnitude discrepancies (I would be
> happy to review some of these amazing anomalies which must surely prompt
> many questions about the current dogmatism of methodological naturalism).
> It seems to me that the certainty with which scientific results are
> presented (well-described in RYZ's post), in which we are urged to
> endorse far-fetched naturalistic assumptions for every phenomenon --
> regardless of the facts -- is just poor science. That kind of science
> is just prejudiced by the unwarranted assumption that all the phenomena
> of plan and purpose can be explained by purely natural causes, which
> is to say (in the opinion of materialists) unintelligent causes. I
> respectfully submit that religious scientists be more skeptical about
> Trojan horses such as [0-4] and examine these theories more carefully
> for their underlying assumptions, as described in [5-11].
In the above, Jonathan seems to disparage the role of extrapolation
in arriving at scientific truth. Yet, extrapolation both forwards
and backwards in time goes to the heart of scientific methodology.
It also corresponds to normal human expectations, albeit unproveable
- as was asserted long ago by the sceptical philosopher, David Hume.
It is no more logical to predict what will happen tomorrow based on
today and yesterday than to infer from the present and recent past to
the distant past. Extrapolations to the future, however, do normally
have the advantage of being easily testable. Extrapolations to the
past are not normally amenable to direct experimentation - but an
accumulation of evidence from the past may be equally convincing. It is
therefore perfectly reasonable to assume that a basic constant of nature
(i.e. G-D's world) such as the propagation speed of electromagnetic
radiation (i.e. light) in vacuum (c) has not ever changed since the
moment of creation. That constant is divorced from considerations of
the relative motion or reference frames of the observer and source, and
forms the basis of the extensively confirmed Special Relativity theory.
The contrary assumption, of a time-varying c, would require unambiguous
evidence to be acceptable. There is no such evidence - only speculation.
Jonathan mentioned some articles by Magueijo and others in Physical Review
D which expound new hypotheses based on a time varying c. He does not
mention that the physics literature is filled with theoretical schemes
that are mathematically self-consistent but imaginary, nonetheless.
The ultimate test is their ability and success in making verifiable
predictions of observables. The relativity theories, and quantum
mechanics and electrodynamics, as leading 20th century examaples, were
established based on such successes. The so-called "big-bang" theory
of cosmology (so named by its leading detractor) and its "inflation"
add-on are clearly less established, but are considered viable theories
by astronomers and as Hoyle may still argue for an eternal universe].
I am puzzled why Jonathan relies on the polemics of the anti "big-bang"
chevra who wish to resurrect the idea of an eternal universe in
opposition to the mainstream view that the universe had an origin.
Jonathan also does not mention that Magueijo and others that he cites
are attempting to describe the universe in the briefest instant of time
(less than a microsecond) after its creation when it was an incredibly
dense and hot plasma. [Actually, the 2nd reference cited appears to
counter Magueijo's thesis by attributing properties of that plasma to a
variable gravitational constant - judging from the abstracts that I have
read.] The creation days, in contrast, appear to describe a familiar,
cool earth with a 24 hour day (if the verses are taken literally), water,
fruit trees, grasses, herbivorous mammals birds, and a man and woman.
Why should we assume that the speed of light and the basic laws of physics
were any different then than now? Why must we assume that a creation day
is truly a 24 hour period? In fact, one can demonstrate that assuming
a radically faster speed of light during those presumed 24 hour days
leads to results inconsistent with modern observations - assuming any
of a number of simple models for a variable c. The demonstration will
involve some basic calculus and may be too technical for some of the list
members. If so, let them skip the bracketed material and read on to the
end. In brief, my exposition leads to the conclusion that the generic
models for a much greater speed of light during the creation period,
succeeded by a constant c of modern value ever since, is in conflict
with more recent astronomical observations, and can, therefore, be
discarded. If Jonathan has a mathematical model that does not have the
same problem (or can show an error in my demonstration), let him offer
it if he wishes his objections to carry weight.
In the following, I make use of a number of astronomical observations.
The furthest stars or galaxies whose light has reached earth are some 13
billion light years distant from us. That is, it has taken light whose
speed is c (300,000 km/sec or 9.5 x 10^12 km/yr) that long to reach us.
That distance is based on the Hubble constant and the degree to which
the characteristic elemental radiation wavelengths have been Doppler
shifted towards longer wavelengths (red-shifted). The Hubble constant
is the observed rate of recession of galaxies (measured by the Doppler
shift) divided by their distance from us. The latter is based on a
combination of star distance estimates using Cepheid variable stars and
type Ia supernovae. Both are reasonably well-understood phenomena, and
the Ia supernovae are believed to produce a relatively uniform intrinsic
brightness, Io. Their distance, which can be billions of light years, is
then based on their apparaent brightness as observed on earth (Io/4 pi
R^2). Jonathan has not previously disputed the distance of these stars
- only the travel time of light. He considers that star light in the
creation days (which are 3 or 4, depending on whether or not you count
the first shabbat) travelled some 11 orders of magnitude faster than
the current value of c in order for it to have taken some 5760 years
to have reached us - rather than 13 billion. Another observation is the
supernova that appeared in the southern hemisphere skies in February 1987
(SN 1987A)from a star in a neighboring galaxy, the large Magellanic cloud.
This exploding star was the closest such supernova since the invention
of the telescope and has therefore been intensively studied. Some 240
days after the dramatic brightening of the star, a bright ring was noted
by high resolution instruments including the Hubble space telescope.
This development was attributed to the time delay in the arrival of
light from the explosion to a cloud of matter from the star that had
been expelled in an earlier eruption. Using the d trigonometry, one
could calculate the distance of the supernova to the earth in a more
direct and accurate manner than had previously been possible. The new
value of 168,000 light years (L-y) agreed with the earlier value (within
the precision of the earlier determination of 179,000 L-y). The above
calculation assumes a constant speed of light over the 168,000 years
(My prior assertion of several days delay before the sighting of the
ring and of a calculated distance to earth of 166,000 light years was
made from memory and is in error.)
[Let us attempt to account for the above observations using a variable
light speed and assuming that the universe started some 5760 years ago.
The simplest model to consider assumes that light in the first 3 or
4 days (.0082 or .011 yrs),(t(a)), had a speed c(a) and the familiar c
subsequently, that is, for the next 5760 years (the "exact" value of t(a)
and t is irrelevant, as we shall see). If the most distant stars are
really as distant as astronomers believe, then the light travel time
for the above model must agree with a 13 billion year travel time at
a speed of c. Setting up that simple equation gives the ratio c(a)/c =
1.6x10^12 for 3 days of super-fast starlight or 1.2x10^12 for 4 days.
Such an enormous ratio implies a much different state of nature during
the creation days. For one, the total energy content of any matter
would have been 10^24 as great as what is observed in modern times
(from Einstein's E= mc^2 relationship that has been verified in many
thousands of nuclear reactions). Moreover, what happened to all that
enormous energy when light speed assumed its normal value?
Let us, however, continue on to the 2nd astronomical observation, the
1987 supernova. The distance to the supernova, D, is given normally by
c x t, where t is the travel time to earth from the time of the star
explosion. The radius of the ring, R, subsequently formed is c x t(e),
where t(e) is the elapsed time between the sudden brightening of the
star and the appearance of the ring. That elapsed time of 240 days is
expressed as 0.658 years. From trigonometry, D = R/tangent a, where a
is the half-angle subtended by the ring on telescopes (0.808 arc sec
or 2.24x10^-4 deg. Then, D = c x t(e)/tan a, and t = t(e)/tan a, or
0.658/3.92x10^-6 = 168,000 years assuming that c is constant over the
Let us now assume, as above, that light speed was c(a) or 1.6x10^12 x c
in the 3 days of creation after stars were first functional. Then the
distance to the supernova is given by D = c(a) x t'(a) + c x t, where
t(a) is the travel time during the creation days (really at its end)
and t is the subsequent time until 5748 (when the ring was observed).
Then D/c (the light travel time in years) = (c(a)/c) x t'(a) + t =
168,000. From above, c(a)/c = 1.6x10^12, t is 5748 years, and t(a) is
calculated as 1.0x10^-7 years or 3.2 sec (i.e. the last 3 seconds of
the creation week). D is then equated to R/tan a, where R is now c(a)
x t(a) + c x t(e). We have shown that t(a)is a small fraction of the
last creation day and that the definition of t(e) is effectively the
same as above. This equation is then solved for t, giving t = 41 billion
years instead of the 168,000 years given by the constant c calculation.
Such an age for the supernova is 3 x the estimated age of the universe
or 7 million times the 5748 years that Jonathan is seeking. He can,
therefore, discard this model.
Let us now turn to a simple model where the speed of light varies
inversely with time until a critical time, t(c), at which point it
assumes the constant value of c. This is given by the equation C = c x
t(c)/t for t < tc and C = c for subsequent times. We avoid the problem
of an infinite (more accurately, undefined) speed of light at t = o,
since starlight first appeared at the beginning of day 4 (0.0082 years).
Calculation of distance travelled by the light now requires an integration
over the appropriate times (a standard procedure in calculus). Let us
write the integrals as Int. C dt and separate the integration into
2 time frames. The first is from 4 days (0.0082 years) to t(c); and
the 2nd is from tc to 5760. The 2nd integral is simply c(5760 - tc).
The 1st integral has (c x t(c)/t) dt as integrand, or c x t(c) Int. dln t.
This integral = c x t(c)(4.8 + ln tc), where ln is the logarithm to the
base e. The sum of the integrals is then = to the observed 13 billion
x c. Then t(c)(ln t(c) + 4.8) = 13 billion (since (5760-tc) is neglible
compared to 13 billion). Now t(c), the critical time when C assumed the
current light speed, must be <5730 (when the measurements became extremely
accurate) and ln t(c)< 8.65. Then 5730 x 13.5 < 77,000. 77,000 is a far
cry from 13 billion. This model therefore can be rejected as well.
Let us now turn to a general model for the exponential decay of light
speed which satisfies the conditions: C = c(0) for t=0 and C = c for
t = tc and beyond. This can be written as C = c - [(c(0)-c)(t-tc)/tc]
exp. -t/tc and C=c for t>tc, where exp. -t/tc refers to the trancendental
number e (much used in mathematics) raised to the -t/tc power. Then the
distance travelled by the original starlight (D) is given by Int. C dt.
The integral can be broken down into 2 parts as before. From t(0) to
tc and from tc to 5760. Now t(0) is the beginning of day 4 (.0082 yrs),
but with little difference in results we can take it as 0. The integral
in the interval above tc is a constant and = c(5760-tc). The integrand
from 0 to tc is (ct(c))- (c(o)-c))Int. ((t/tc) -1)(exp.-t/tc)dt. The
2nd integrand can be solved analytically and the final result is: D/c =
5760 + (tc/e)(co -c)/c = 13x10^9. For co/c >>1, t(c)(co/c)=35 billion.
Now tc <5730 and co/c >6.0 million.
Turning now to the SN1987a supernova and integrating C over time as above
(except that we start with the arbitrary time, ti < tc), we find:
D/c = (5750-t1)-((c0/c)-1))Int.((t/tc)-1)exp.-(t/tc)dt
between the limits t=t1 and tc. The integral is given by
tc[(t1/tc)exp.-(ti/tc) - 1/e].
The result is
D/c = 168,000 = (5750-t1)-(co/c)tc[(ti/tc)[exp.-(ti/tc)] - 1/e].
Now, t1<<1 yr. and 168,000-5750+t1=162,000. From above, tc(co/c)=35
(t1/tc)exp. -(t1/tc) = 4.7x10^-6 + .3679 = 1/e, and
t1/tc = 1.
In words, the supernova occurred at a time when the speed of light was
the modern constant, c. In which case, the earlier calculation which
assumed c is correct and the distance to the supernova was such that it
took light 168,000 years to reach us.]
Thus, all the generic models for a time varying speed of light that have
been examined are either inconsistent with astronomical observations or
inconsistent with literal 24 hour creation days. Now, Jonathan may argue
that the astronomical distances are far smaller than astronomers figure
[although he did not so argue previously], despite the evidence from the
Cepheid Variable stars, type Ia supernovae, and the Hubble relationship.
In which case, perhaps he should drop his objections to a constant c
and focus on the distance argurment. In any case, let him present a
mathematical argument for his position.
Go to top.
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