Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Torah & Science From a Different Angle
[juuust a mock up]

"Torah lo b'Shamayim he" and l'hvdl Methodological Materialism

Torah and tevah, the Book of Torah and the Book of the World. Over time, I've heard many examples of 'the sciences' being 'reconciled' with Torah - usually physics, less so biology, even less the social sciences; this breakdown strikes me as "Intelligent Design" of a sort. Though we claim science is of one world, and applies uniformly within it, do we make claims of 'special creation' in historical matters, even where Tanach or the Tradition does not?

-In biological history, evolution compared with Jewish history & the social sciences; Holmes Rolston, Loren Eiseley, Teihard de Chardin, their awe-struck voices on the natural world and their reflections in Heschel, etc., who engage historical-critical process, history, etc and Yahadut.

-Solomon's role in the building of the Temple as metaphor in its application to Torah text as well as the world. Narrative/Science (Rolston), and history in creation, Shemtot, etc. that which has 'occured' in both Jewish history and world history (microcosm/macrocosm).

-The claims of Torah "rationalists" and their claimed 'advocacy' of science; Yad Hashem, miracles, supernatural causes, etc, in judaism treated as 'outdated' - seemingly based on outmoded expectations/conceptions of science (deriving from Aristotlianism, etc?). Present examples of frontline advocates for science (Jewish and non-Jewish - since "true science" is both/neither...) and their supernatural views - and the evidence they would offer for the rationality of accepting traditional models of miracles, supernatural agents, based in mainstream sciences limits, etc.

-Just as the "Book of Nature" is in a perilous place by our hands - such is Yahadut; trenchant 'sanctity' given to the divisions of denominations - where observance is supposed to be the measure of 'sanctity'. The Torah 'rationalist' modernists and the 'Daas Torah' camp, neither of which are necessarily either (nor are they necessarily the 'camps' they see themselves as). converging theological catastrophes on par with environmental, economic and social ones?

-The distinction of being Told something (revelation) as opposed to coming to know or believe independently (reason, science, etc). While independent realisation is indicative of real development, it is not communal, not communication. being Told entails relationship, engagement - not dispassionate analysis (R. Eliezer Berkovits on encounter and 'no science of the personal,' maybe Greenberg essay on BibCrit). In regard to the "independent-knowing" sciences - it is quite likely that we would not come to know nature in the depth and dimensions we do, if we were not Told certain things that are not among the deliverances of reason; fundamental presuppositions necessary for science are Biblical - not 'religious', not ultimately emergent - Biblical. I started this post with Methodological Materialism and "Torah lo b'Shamayim he"; here I think is such a common substrate; both entail certain meta-principles that aren't reasoned to, they're reasoned from; ultimately, they must be Told - though overtime we may so assume them that we forget their Divine source, ourselves (as Jews) so emerged from them. Here, both science and Yahadut/Halacha share emergence from Torah. huh.
This, among many simanim, is an indication that Torah has at the very least something Divine to its narrative (no 'contentless revelation' here; though that may be the case some other way). If even a fragment resulted from the Encounter (Berkovits quote), Torah as the account of it would still be Torah from HKBH; encounter and ensuing relationship is central. How is it logical, even by "Conservative" theologians, to 'hint' that HKBH is absent in the account of a covenanting conversation between God and man!? How can one claim mitzvot aren't defining from such a conversation? I'm not presenting a perspective from "classical" Conservative judaism - where mere history, culturally-'developed' and accumulated 'achieved' beliefs and ideas, and accumulate some "binding authority" of Revelation. History does not hallow - HKBH Hallows history! With obvious caveats I offer Louis Jacobs;

"It is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to account for the lofty teachings of the Hebrew Prophets, the civilising influence of the great Law of Moses, the history of a small people who found God and brought Him to mankind [this is really the case if content was '2nd' to Encounter in Jacobsian sense - where HKBH Revealed Himself - far surpassing the Giving of 'mere' text, temporal content], the Sinaitic revelation itself and the spiritual power these books continue to exercise over men's souls, unless Israel really met with God and recorded in immortal language the meaning of that encounter. We can be sceptical of the individual details in the Bible. We can dwell on the numerous parallels with Egyptian, Babylonian and Assyrian mores. We can point the striking resemblances between Hebrew poetry in the Bible and Canaanite hymns in praise of the pagan gods...[look up this cutout bit yourself if you're curious]...What cannot be seriously doubted is the 'something else', which has ensured that this and no other collection of books has become the sacred Scripture of a large proportion of mankind; that there are living Jews who regard themselves as the heirs to the Bible and no living Babylonians, Canaanites, and Assyrians (OK, except them...); that there is a Voice which speaks here..." Louis Jacobs, Faith, p.107

This is Louis Jacobs speaking! One of the people who would really know what an academic challenge to Judaism is and is not!..Actually, I should have prefaced it with "and some less obvious caveats"; even Jacobs is ignorant of certain voices from the mesorah itself that temper the challenge of his 'critical' approach, as I keep discovering in reading him...especially here.

Academia narrows its focus down to "what can be quantified" in the tradition, and as a result deals with an expurgated tradition, an expurgated text. If not for the the fact that Am Israel Chai, "Wissenshaft de Judentums" would seem to be as any other science. In painting this picture of Israel, it is as a Divine/Human dialogue rendered as human monologue (in a sense, noted by Jon Levenson). Expurgated from the above God/Torah/Israel equation is He who Authors the very greater, mathematical-logical context that is all Creation, in which Jewish history, the setting of the Great Tri-alogue - occurs. This 'monologue-ification' is noteworthy and ominous among quasi-'Orthodox' postmodern 'halachic Judaisms' that claim full observance and learning 'Without Foundations' - even academically-aware Conservative Judaism [and Orthodox?...] articulated - if erroneously - foundations!
In such a setting, one can tragically have "non-denominational" people sitting and learning, etc, each with no idea that they are each studying something completely different based on what their presuppositions are; some - however open to scholarship - are not only engaging in Talmud Torah, they're studying Divrei Hashem, they're taking part in an ongoing dialogue with the Divine. Others, even their chavruta, are studying, literally, empty words, human legalisms and cultural expression. Unless you cognate that you are in a conversation, how can it be said you're in one? If you refuse to read the Words of The Other, Gans Anders, as they sit before you (and as they sat before those before you), as OTHER than merely human words?

Regarding the natural world as Creation; natural processes such as evolution do not, of necessity, limit their very Creator or exhaust His attributes - just as Jewish history, to the degree natural processes apply there - do not proscribe HKBH or indicate the fullness of His Godliness; a painting/novel does not exhaust or reveal fully it's creator! - it only reveals what is Placed there - in humans, knowingly or unknowlingly (an interesting place for HKBH being "all knowing" in intellect while fully conciousness?). In this sense, we know from nature only of Him what it is built to tell us (Berkovits and the proliferation of the view of the universe as created among non-Jewish-related faiths). But Israel was Told Torah, Told the ways and degrees which we can perceive Him through nature on a new level, not deduced from horizontal relationship with nature alone! Evolution as a tool in Divine hands, like history, etc., as a means of indicating and obscuring - functions both in explication on His part and 'coming-to-know' on our part. Compare to 'ID vs. Dawkins' et al.; both religious fundamentalists and militant secular skeptics benefit from the public false presumptions of "what scholarship can tell us"; both would like to say science is Scientism, and it deconstructs and reduces all 'religion', either unsucessfully (as fundamentalists would believe) or successfully. The reality is that the very design of science's nets limit what it can catch, etc. ex of pro-evolution religious scientists, etc.

-"If one acknowledges HKBH as the Divine and Creator, where is the challenge in evolution, etc as how His universe was made?"; we say this of physical creation - is it possible to apply the it to other "scientific" challenges to Yahadut? If we find astounding unlikehoods and amazing precisions ("fine-tuned" cosmos, etc), in what we believe to be an evolved universe, why of necessity fear the same in Yahadut?; Jewishly, we say this about accuracies in Torah, about amazing literary patterns and structures, etc - and we say it about a Divinely-authored, evolved universe, but we don't put them together. When taken together, at the very least, there are points where we need not be challenged [the links there are must reads], by BibCrit pretentions any more than by opinions of Dawkins, etc - particularly when so many of their own scientific peers are religious and accept methodological materialism - and its limits. Compare to BibCrit and again, stated limits of what biblical critics say they can even postulate on. Of special note is the recent engagement of some Modern Orthodox theologians with James Kugel (read especially my comments in the...comments section). I would add, even if certain of the fundamental evidences of Biblical Criticism were true - there are many things left unexplained by the approach, narrative and law that are left unaddressed; anachronistic and accurate details that indicate Egyptian setting for much of the Exodus narratives (and similar 'fixing' details) where this would violate certain assumptions about the dating of 'sources', leitworten, literary structures that defy the classifications and determining signifiers of 'sources', etc, etc.

-'masorti', scholarship, belief & observance ramble, HKBH Sanctioning our decisions about what we believe regarding Him and the fact of divergent beliefs over Jewish history by Sages, etc; He exceeds each of these claims individually, cumulative tradition and HKBHs method of 'measuring out' to the prophets (R. Kook, R. Fisher), let alone us, what is necessary for us to know/believe, for our mission, etc.

-Example of Moshiach from "Meta-Halakhah, halakhah as comprehensive system that will inevitably 'emerge' Moshiach - potential in every generation. this would be so regardless of how halakhah changes, if we propose that it's prime features are non-modelability, etc.


Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>