Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Rav Kook and the value of "Privileged information"
excuse the formating, pending editing
Previously, I offered up some sources from Rav Kook that seem to suggest that there is potentially benefit to imprecise and incorrect acquired knowledge (i.e, untruth). That there is value in "common knowledge" that may be in error is widely accepted in many circles, though people are often uncomfortable articulating it as having positive value. Too much knowledge can indeed be a dangerous thing, ignorance can save many from making theological errors as a result of believing they have full insight where they do not, etc. Communism has been discussed (was it R. Lamm's "monism for moderns" piece?), as having risen from Jewish mystical Messianism, and in part Rambam's 'celebrated' "true ideas" & "necessary beliefs" (Guide III:28?), where in a sense maxims become stated dogmas, developing interpretations around them, maintained for right-orientation purposes though they may be subtly true than True in their articulation in Canon, etc. The recent piece by Shuchat has some similar examples from Rav Kook around the issue of evolution and in some sense, cognitive dissonance (not his words). Here's a snippet [notes his, emphasis mine];

"The masses were not capable of understanding evolution as a complete
and inclusive idea
and could not [therefore] relate it to their spiritual
world. The problematic aspect, which weighs so heavily on the masses,
isn’t the incompatibility of the biblical verses or of traditional texts with
the idea of evolution
. This type of work [of explaining the verses of
Genesis or Rabbinic texts on creation] is quite easy. [After all] everyone
knows that metaphors and riddles dominate these areas which are cosmic
secrets. . . . But [the problem is] how to relate to the idea of evolution all
of the wealth of spiritual ideas developed by the masses which are
on the idea of
[creation] ex nihilo and which [was taught since it]
the mind from floating into areas too removed from understanding
. . . .
This needs a great deal of the light [of pedagogical explanations]."
Shemonah Kevazim, vol. 1: 42-44

Regarding why little things like a meteor, natural sources of epic destruction and other such localized occurences and particular events aren't mentioned in Torah, I would think them minor in comparison to why "evolution" - an epic process involved in the development of all life on earth - would be skipped over. While it is also true that we may never have an understanding of evolution as complete and conclusive idea - it is necessary for science to advance that we adjure something to stand independently enough that we may 'stand' on it (however lightly), and grow in knowledge thusly. Earlier in the same piece, Shuchat gave another Rav Kook;

"R. Kook’s final argument concerns the idea of evolution of the species. If evolution did, in fact, happen, why didn’t the Torah mention it? R. Kook answers: Just as we say “and then Solomon built [the temple for God,” Kings I 6:1] rather than say that Solomon gave the order to the ministers and the ministers in turn to their subordinates and they to the architects and the architects to the craftsmen and laborers, for this is as obvious as it is secondary. [Feldman, {Ed.}, Rabbi A.Y. Kook, p.7] Obviously it is the one who started the process and gave the order that is the builder {see R. Berkovits' God, Man and History on causation and creation, pp. 69ish-74ish}. So, too, it is possible to understand the creation story as implying that God gave the order and the world evolved through a process of evolution. R. Kook does not assert that this is what happened, as evolution is just a theory; he simply claims that it could have been what happened and this would not contradict the Torah {possibly making room for - if not fostering - human intellectual/scientific engagement with the world - something that itself has clear, direct source in Biblical presuppositions}. We do not have to accept theories as certainties, no matter how widely accepted {"Yet the consensus of many, however great and distinguished, does not prove the truth or falseness of a particular belief"}, for they are like blossoms that fade. Very soon science will be developed further and all of today’s new theories will be derided and scorned and the well-respected wisdom of our day will seem small-minded.[ibid, p.6]""


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