15 January 2007

Evolutionary Trends

Check out this brief snippet of a comment by Ed in a recent post on XGH: Occam's Razor.

>3. Even if you say it must have come from somewhere, the possibilities are endless. A God, a super intelligent scientist from another dimension, 2 scientists, 3 Gods, 2 scientists and 3 Gods etc etc. An evil god, a good god, a mediocre god etc. The possibilities
are literally infinite. We have no data and no knowledge. Why assume one good God?

Occam's razor.


I find this amusing. When it suits him, Ed latches onto some scientific concept. And when it doesn't, he ignores science. The thought processes seem almost parasitical. Or another way of looking at it, evolutionary. And I find this not just in Ed and other Bloggers.

It's the whole Jewish theology. The theology has adapted and will continue to adapt in order to survive and thrive. It's been a while already that I've begun to think of Judaism as an organism that changes with the times based on outside environmental pressures. Check out "The Woman who laughed at God". Jonathan Kirsch describes and demonstrates, much better than I, how Judaism is able to change and thrive. He attributes it's malleability to the many attributes that exist within Judaism going back thousands of years. Tendencies for mercy, scholarship, charity, physical combat, piety, diversity, etc. It's all there in the Torah for anyone to gravitate to. This has parallels to evolutionary biology, where alleles exist and respond to selection pressures.

As a result of the Churban Bais Hamikdosh, Judaism shifts to Shuls. Karbanos shifts to Prayer and the modern Jew develops a distaste for animal sacrafice. When necessary to survive, the Perushim, by their own account, bend. Ais Laasos Lashem Heifeiru Sorasechah - and the Oral law is permitted to be written. R' Gershom bans polygamy to conform to Christian mores. The Rambam and others respond to philosophical pressures and creates a rational new outlook of Judaism. Chassidism arises from the ashes of Chmelnitzki's massacres.
Ed admits that R' Aaron Kotler's establishment of Lakewood was in a sense reactionary, necessary to transfer Torah from Europe to the United States. Rabbi Natan Slifkin responds to extraordinary scientific advances and resurrects and shores up some aging concepts, revolutionary in their own times, to reconcile Judaism with modernity. The Chareidi world distances itself from Slifkin and retreats into censorship because those concepts are anathema to it.

In a word, all of this is reactionary. The outside world changes and a component of Judaism responds and changes. It has to. That's human nature. Orthodoxy thinks it does not change but it definitely does. Chareidim think they don't change, but they do change.

(And just like in biological evolution where isolation promotes diversity, the same is true in Judaism. Hence, the striking differences between Sfardic & Ashkenaz Judaism. Probably, neither of which is exactly what Judaism was like before these cultures diverged. )

So too, I find this in my Blogger friends, Ed & Rabbi Maroof (who I find very knowledgeable).

Both evolved independently, differing in some of the most basic Hashkofos of OJ. Each believes the other's hashkofos are wrong to the extent that each believes the other's side can create Emuna problems. Each, in order to survive, brings out whatever guns, whatever arguments he has, to fight the skeptics.

Note the dichotomy, Ed speaks in terms of unchanging Mesora as the ultimate proof. In truth, this is the approach I'd prefer, probably due to my upbringing. Yet the sad reality is there is no unchanging Mesorah. R. Maroof on the other hand cites Rishonim who's views might be said to be primitively precient of Today's science. Yet this too is pick and choose. Select an allele to win the argument. Nowadays, the R' Slifkin approach makes for a more enlightened argument, but step into some segments of Jewish society that represent the creme de'le creme of Torah Scholarship and he'd be labeled a Koifer.

The mere existence of both, a R. Maroof and an Ed, might be enough to shake one's Emuna. (Yes, I know someone will pull out Eilu V'eilu or some other Talmudic allele to explain that one).

And finally, I think, in order to survive when confronted with modernity, I believe Ed will have to adapt (or maybe already has). He will have to adopt a Slifkin type of approach or possibly revert to even more fundamentalist behaviours.

What an ironic example of evolution.

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