Thursday, July 28, 2005

Hashgacha Pratit

I daven an early-ish minyan here in Baltimore. I noticed one day a certain stately, but young man in his 50s began coming to say Kaddish. Rep. Ben Cardin. Today I was doing a little Masonic "pleasure research" into a body known as "the Grotto". The usual Google search for a local "Grotto" immediately turned up an obituary for a very active Mason; a member of St. John's Lodge, the Golden Eagle Square & Compass Club, the Scottish Rite - and the Yedz Grotto - the local 'chapter' of the Grottoes of North America. The obituary was for Meyer M. Cardin.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


To continue this cartographic metaphor, it seems in comparing the Torah and Science maps, that the Science Map lacks a Legend (the thingy, usually in a bottom corner that has a compass, color codes, etc) - a key [read 'myth', in the sense of megameaning narrative, factual or otherwise] explaining the parameters of meaning for the various colors, systems and codes that we use to make the map say something to us. I don't mean that the Science Map lacks merely a path from "is to ought" ( the argument for the silence of science on moral issues) - it lacks justification for the scientific endeavor itself; why should we trust our basic reasoning skills? Or our senses? Why should we trust that the world makes sense? These are missing on the Science map - and require that you refer to the Torah map (or at least the Worldview Atlas, where many maps share generally similar keys), for basis in making these decisions.

With obivous caveats on the Chabad source (to placate Anonymous Student), there are a great many concepts noted on the much- earlier Torah Map that have taken millenia for the Science Cartographers to arrive at regarding temporal reality. At times, Torah Cartographers have moonlighted as Science Cartographers; Rambam is the obvious example. Rambam's mapping had very strong influence on Leibniz, who had extensive notes in his Latin edition of Moreh Nevukhim, particularly in sections dealing with observation and testing of phenomena. maybe more later.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Mabul II
A few reasonable comments from Chabad people concerning the Mabul and science, arehere;

"We at the Torah Science Foundation believe that the most powerful and creative approach is to take both the Torah and science as relevant bodies of knowledge that shape human consciousness. From that perspective, since the Torah tells us that there was a flood, we believe with complete faith that there was a flood. Can we map the "flood" concept in the scientific body of knowledge? Not yet. On the other hand, we watch with wonder how very large scale phenomena such as the story of creation in Torah match emerging scientific theories such as the Big Bang with remarkable precision."

I would emphasize/empathize with the concept of "map" and watching with "wonder how very large scale Torah match emerging scientific theories...with remarkable precision". Remarks from scientists abound regarding the unsettling similarities of the Torah maps and the Science maps, especially around Big Bang/Bereshit. But what if we find (following the science maps0, something around the Mabul - such as an extensive regional/local flood within the time of Noach? Scientists would probably make similar "remarkable" statements about how unusually similar the science and Torah maps are; would religious people feel a similar "wonder" - or would we fear finding basis for reading the Torah map a little differently than we had before? Our fear wouldn't be based on scientific challenges; the [albeit hypothetical] scientists are amazed on the Torah's accuracy! Would we doubt the integrity of the 'Torah' the scientists were amazed by because it wasn't in the loshon of the Torah we'd been rendering Torah in? I know it's a bit clumsy and jumbled, I'll probably edit this.

Monday, July 18, 2005

There Are Many Traps in the World

There are many traps in the world
and what is a trap could be a refuge
and what is a refuge could be a trap

Your window, for instance,
open to the sky
and a star saying that humanity is nothing
or the morning sparkling on the beach
waving, before Cabral, before Troy
[four centuries ago Tomas Bequimao
took the city, created a people's police
and then was betrayed, jailed and hanged]

There are many traps in the world
and many mouths telling you
that life is too little
and life is too crazy
And why not the Bomb? they ask you.
Why not the Bomb to end it all, since
life is crazy?

Yet you look at your son, the kid
who doesn't know,
who gives himself to life and wants life
and seeks the sun, the sphere, fascinated, sees
the airplane and asks and asks

Life is little
life is crazy
And you didn't kill yourself, that's the truth

You're a prisoner of life as if you were in a cage.
We're all prisoners
in this cage that Gagarin saw for the first time
from above, and said: "It's blue."
And we already knew it, so well
that you did not kill yourself and will not
kill yourself
and will endure it till the end.

It's certain that in this cage there are those who have
and those who don't
there are those who have so much that they alone could
feed the whole city
and those who havent' enough for today's lunch

The star is a liar
the sea is a Sophist. In fact,
man is tied to life and needs to live
man is hungry
and needs to eat
man has children
who need to be raised
There are many traps in the world
and they have to be shattered.

-by Ferreira Gullar,trans. from the Portugese by Renato Rezende

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Mabul
I am assuming that the Mabul is more like a flood than not - and therefore more historical than not. I have seen one 'orthodox' authority offering that the Mabul was more/other than historical...but since this is the ONLY published example I have ever seen, I wouldn't say his proposal has status above that of the consensus of Chazzal, Meforshim and the Rabbonim of the millenia; actual (but not necessarily exhaustive), historicity of the Mabul narrative. I want to make myself happy, and I don't know that I would consider his proposal seriously until it has a haskama from a Talmid Hakham of some standing.

There is not positive evidence for a global flood in the geological record, at least not for when we would 'date' Noach; therefore a literal, global flood could be questioned from the evidence our G-d Given senses - if we were only working from the text and current geology(excluding Midrashim, etc). If we "want our Mabul and our science too", it seems we are looking at what is, at most, a regional - or at least a local - set ofevents.

I will say that the sources I have discussing alluvial deposits for the mediterranean region for Noach's time are not from geological surveys as such, but from archeological digs - and rather old ones; between 1920 and 1930. I have no idea of new studies of the region that could say anything on that era in the historical record (or whether they even have deposits for that era in mind - especially if their interests are deeper in history; oil,mineral, etc). But I am working on finding some.

Some of these deposits are extensive and within the time of Noach - but evidence is ("remains" should be the word considering the downright antiquity of the 'studies' proffered), inconclusive for a single alluvial deposit that is a continuous level in the'basin'. I say 'basin' cautiously, since I don't know that the portion of Mesopotamia pertinent to the narrative is actually a singular, "high-edged allaround" basin-like...basin (forgive my layman's terminology). Kiruv sources that would argue at least for a "regional mabul" often seem to presume that there was a larger, bowl-like basin in whichall the river basins were encompassed. Again I have no idea; But I have seen it suggested from a fervently secular 'science' source that the "basin" people have in mind for the region is not actually a basin - and at the time (much like the present), was open in the South - thus not capable of sustaining flood waters (within his theoretical geographical confines of 'the region'), for the 120 days.

In my ignorance, I would offer to the secular source that there may have been a greater, Persian Gulf-sourced flood that raised water levels from the Southeast up into the 'basin'. It might make for a source for a 120-day flood - but it would also seem to leave saltwater-type evidence (again forgive the terminology..), in the river valleys and lowlands, positive evidence which (at least by the antiquated surveys), is not yet forthcoming.

An orthodox rabbi and scientist teaching at a yeshivah high school in NJ had implied that he had a defense for what seemed to me (from his "noddings"), something of a downright local flood, entailing only certain populated river valleys, etc. He hinted that there was a resolution from Zohar and other sources. But this rabbi (R.Dr.), after suggesting that I send him my 'issues' - hasn't been communicative. I'm a little worried about his lack of coorespondence, and may drive up to Monsey to catch one of his lectures and ask him directly again on it.

Archeology issues;
There exist examples of "cultural" continuity over time (i.e., same vertical location in the strata), within the region of the supposed regional mabul; destruction of all culture and the survival of only a family unit out of all humankind has thus far been the consensus reading of the narrative.

"Cultural" sites (you'll figure out why I keep quotationing 'culture'), and "artifacts" have been found over the globe before the time of Noach, and cultural continuity there as well (depending on the sites). I have heard (at Aish haTorah, from 'sanctioned' science speakers), attempts at explaining the concept of 'culture' as not being bound to Modern Man (with 'Nefesh/Ruach/
Neshama' souls - here I think I am more in proximity to Ramchal than the Baal haTanya or R. Hayyim Vital in saying most all humans have 'NaRaN') - and that Noach's descendents introduced the Neshama level of soul by breeding with these various 'human but not fully human' peoples - thus 'modern Souled man' would post-date Noach.

This makes sense on some really neat scientific - but not intuitive or tolerable Politically Correct grounds. Neanderthal Man for example, is no longer considered an ancestor - but a cousin. Neanderthal sites include burials with weapons, clothing, etc. But they are not in our 'line' of descent as forebearers. In addition, many, many animals display abilities beyond our comprehension with no technology; spiders and their webs, birds and their nests - all without recourse to teaching by their parents, etc. Whole societies of animals share networks and relationships between each other and other species that utterly transcend our expectations - based on our knowledge of their comparable neural power. I had considered this Cain and the peopling of the region after Gan Eden, as well as whom Adam HaRishon had relations with aside from Eve (midrashim regarding sheidim, etc). I'm saying that a Neshamah is not necessarily considered necessary, Jewishly speaking, for there to be culture and tool-making. How far we can stretch that is "scientifically" is another story. Consider that contemporary secular scientific consensus is that - indeed - nothing like a soul is necessary for anything humans have done since coming down from the trees! Heck, for them, nothing like a soul "exists" - so how could it be necessary? From language to "Beverly Hills 90210" to subway systems and spaceflight, nothing entails/demands a soul. That is the consensus of one of the strongest worldviews the world has ever seen (the world can see worldviews - views of itself?...)

Speaking of seeing things - I have not seen any rabbinic justification for this (aside from the very broad concept that not all of life was destroyed in the mabul, only that whichman had corrupted), aside from the general Jewish predilection for 'footnoting' the neshamah status of non-jews...something ELSE I'm not comfy with - other than that, I'm not even sure it's necessary.

Biological issues (I'll admit to not having explored the organic issues as much as the geo issues) -what animals were on the Ark, how fresh water fish would survive a salinated environment, Speciation before and after the flood, the bringing together and dispersion of very specialized species, again the question of source for human populations, etc. Many of these problems are cleared up by offering a regional flood, where mans behaviors had consequences for those species/types of species affected by him spiritually; did these consequences have to apply, exhaustively, to all of physical creation to apply to the spiritual dimension of all creation? Only Nefesh animals it seems are mentioned in the narrative - and they would only have to have come from the immediate environment of man. Also through to Avraham (the advent of normal time), God it seems, had to lay on the pressure to get man out into the world outside of the region.

So those are my issues in a nutshell. History and science aside, we have a narrative that itself can be read (despite doubts on the part of BibCrit theorists), as a singular, literary/spiritually meaningful narrative (Gil Student has written a piece on the unity of the narrative;links also to the first installment). It clearly has purposeful information, and can reasonably be understood to be one text, composed as one text. But I think what information we would consider to be historically meaningful seems to be coded puzzle-shaped pieces with lots of missing pieces, where we would expect to be told historically 'useful' things (hence my 'historical but not exhaustive' comment above). I say puzzle pieces because the whole narratives' historical meanings do seem to be parts of a "big picture" - one we aren't being given access to - like hearing bits and pieces from a family-based history of an actual big, historical event(an example might be one Union Sergeant's personal account of his divisionfighting at Gettysburg). We are told not all of 'it', but what was/is/will be of first importance (historical or otherwise) - and additionally the Given parts can be juxtaposed/factored together to teach different dimensions of meaning,etc. Maybe it's because these events/descriptions/statements, etc, were so very
"juxstaposable", they were the only ones Given over (whether of PARDES, literary or historical import).

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Truth and Tolerance

I have read only a bit of Ian Markham's stuff, mostly around his epistemological argument for the Ontological Nihilism in absence of belief in God (I twist it to a 'soft' areguement merely to the Divine). In "Plurality and Christian Ethics", he addresses ethics in the Public Square, offering that;

"[T]he contemporary threats to plurality do not come from religion but from secularism. The secularist, who has given up the quest for truth and therefore moral debate and rational dialogue, is the greater danger to tolerance. A religious foundation for tolerance is grounded in the reality of God that ensures the intelligibility of the universe. This foundation is the only effective antidote to secular reason, which cannot avoid the dangers of nihilism. Truth claims depend upon the conviction that the universe is intelligible, and that in turn depends upon belief in God."
This insight, that truth is necessary for tolerance, argues that truth must be grounded ultimately on acknowledgement of God. But because people have different beliefs regarding the meaning of the term 'God", we should go further; belief in God is a belief in the Divine, but not necessarily vice versa. Belief in the reality of the Divine, not 'simply' in the reality of 'God', is considered necessary for making truths claims - valid or not (hense argument!!), and the PoMo who recourses (discourses?...), to the irrelevance of Metanarratives and offer 'ethics without foundations' or 'science without facts' or whatnot, the "Kantian" or neo Kantian who would disregard moral imperative from without, also risk discounting ontology and epistemology from without. If measures of material reality are to be founded from 'within' (as it seems Kant/PoMo people claim the reality of the moral world is 'justified'), how are they not pleadings for the axial divinity of - the speaker, of the speakers perspective? I know literary critics and English Majors tend to to write like they have Ruach HaKodesh...

Friday, July 08, 2005

Reasonable Belief and arguments

"Here Dennett seems to assume that if you can't show by reason that a given proposed source of truth is in fact reliable, then it is improper to accept the deliverances of that source. This assumption goes back to the Lockean, Enlightenment claim that, while there could indeed be such a thing as divine revelation, it would be irrational to accept any belief as divinely revealed unless we could give a good argument from reason that it was. But again, why think a thing like that? Take other sources of knowledge: rational intuition, memory, and perception, for example. Can we show by the first two that the third is in fact reliable--that is, without relying in anyway on the deliverances of the third? No, we can't; nor can we show by the first and third that memory is reliable, nor (of course) by perception and memory that rational intuition is. Nor can we give a decent, non-question-begging rational argument that reason itself is indeed reliable. Does it follow that there is something irrational in trusting these alleged sources, in accepting their deliverances? Certainly not ."

A similar line of thinking is taken in R. Carmy's "Letter To A Philosophical Dropout From Orthodoxy" regarding other modes of knowing truth aside from argumentation and "rationalism". The hegemony of "Reason" to the exclusion of the many historically acknowledged means of experiencing and engaging the world leads to false dichotomies of "facts vs. faith", "analytical vs. intuitive", etc. There are those who accept the false dichotomy while opposing rationalism, seemingly embrace an almost fideist stance - probably as treif as Enlightnment-era "rationalism".

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Night/Dawn/Day of the Davening Dead

I used to disdain rote davening, davening that wasn't "spiritual" (what/whenever that means [anything]), now I daven Minha/Aravit bal peh, and I actually hear myself saying it, listening to myself speaking the words. I was Deaf the first few years of life and have a different relationship to written vs. oral information as a result; I definitely don't learn/lern as others do. watching all the black hats from behind (I'm the guy in the back, on the left), I wonder how Matrix-like the hats and coats are, realise my mind is wondering, i try to wonder back to the words, the ones we are all saying (more or less; I noticed not everyone says "Sh'ma kolainu Hashem Elokainu; Hoos v'Rahaim aleinu!"), all wondering from.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Do they have any idea?...

And what's worse is I actually found it linked off an "orthodox" dating site... If only finding my shidduch were that easy.

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