Monday, December 27, 2010

Robert Pollack & R. Adin Steinsaltz; Purpose Praise and Prayer
From here;
The Lord, who has existed before time and the universe began, created both time and the universe in order to have, in time, creatures—the word means things created—with free will, who could then choose to say thanks for their and the world’s existence. For thanks to be proper and meaningful—the proper form of thanks is to bless the Lord—these creatures would need absolute free will to choose whether or not to do so.

Hence the unavoidability of randomness, accidents, and for that matter evil in religious terms: all must be allowed to result, whether by the wrong human choice or by truly random occurrence, because to allow any to be preventable by pre-determining human choice, would be to gut the purpose of the Creation. The absolute requirement of human free will in this religious vision shifts human choice into the foreground, and mechanisms of natural selection which yield a person who can make the unexpected choice into the background.
This line of argument is articulated beautifully in Adin Steinsaltz’s book The Strife of the Spirit, in the essay “Fate, Destiny and Free Will.” I had not yet read his essay when he and I first talked about these matters. I had just read an earlier article by Richard Dawkins, and was quite astounded by his capacity to reduce religious thought to an especially successful kind of ideational parasite. Rabbi Steinsaltz’s answer was to give me a reference to his essay, with the passing remark: “The Lord says, ‘Get Me a thinking creature, I don’t care how.’”

From that religious perspective, natural selection would be a wholly natural mechanism which would eventually yield creatures with the capacity to propagate ideas, but also the capacity to exercise free will, that is, to make a
choice of thought or action that is totally free of utility in terms of natural selection, either in the mental or in the physical sphere.

I think R. Steinsaltz remark is even more rich than it appears; Homo Sapiens Sapiens do more than 'merely' think - or analyze and sit about, being thankful via the rational 'arts' and sciences of philosophy, rhetoric and the sciences (oh, and watch also the interview here). In thinking, humans believe - and do so irrationally, as well as ways orthogonal to reason (which Dr. Pollack seems to completely ignore as a concept in the audio lecture; not sure if it's a matter of being in biology versus mathematics, as with Dr. Aumann) - we also obey, create, feel, hate, murder, rationalize, remember, repress, regret, etc, etc., - not merely "do X,Y and Z", nor even A-to-Z - but reflect on the decisions to do so and create whole grammars, whole languages, not merely linear processes and logic statements but also poetry, prose and lies and so much more; speak them, communicate statements and sharing reasonings, experiences, etc. I don't think all of these are variations on 'thinking' and resultant thanksgiving (Aleinu l'shabeach) - which, in line with the posts today, is prayer.

We are made for [at least one form of] prayer, human history randomly occuring such that an Israel comes to do so as corporate prayer (after 974 previous, random-selecting attempts at a Corporate Israel...), and the universe such as it is, within and over and time and space - that we do so, and teach mankind to do likewise.


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