Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Can Judaism be Reconciled With Science? Part 2: Creation, Early Life


I must be honest; I am running into a few problems here. The first is that I wanted to tell the two versions of the history of the universe (biblical and scientific) in parallel, however the two accounts are so drastically different in the order of what came first, that it now seems impossible I shall however try my best to keep it somewhat readable. The second problem, which is not as big as the first, is that I am leaving my comfort zone of physics and wandering into the unknown waters of biology and geology. However, please join me, as this will be a learning experience for both of us. If I say anything that is wrong, assume the mistake is mine, and I will try to give you as many references as I can.
Now where did we leave off? Ah, yes. Day Three;
“And God said, "Let the water that is beneath the heavens gather into one place, and let the dry land appear," and it was so. And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas, and God saw that it was good. And God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, seed yielding herbs and fruit trees producing fruit according to its kind in which its seed is found, on the earth," and it was so. And the earth gave forth vegetation, seed yielding herbs according to its kind, and trees producing fruit, in which its seed is found, according to its kind, and God saw that it was good. And it was evening, and it was morning, a third day.”
                The bible would have you assume that the earth was covered in water when it was first formed and then god miraculously pushed the water aside so that dry land would rise up. How did this work? Did he spilt the sea? We know he is good at this trick. Did he dig a deep hole in the ocean so that the sea levels will go down? Or did he just do it, and “stop asking so many questions about god already”? Anyways we also have the first life mentioned in the bible, plant life. Grass, fruit trees, and vegetation of all sorts arises on our lonely planet earth. According to midrash the trees were commanded to make their bark taste like the fruit, but they disobeyed. Tsk, tsk, tsk, the naughty trees did not listen to god, thus setting the stage for the rest of history. 
                Notice that this is the first life form mentioned in the bible, there is no mention of the most plentiful and earliest of all life forms, bacterium and viruses. It is also ignorant of the fact that there were many animals before plants and trees appeared on the land. An all-knowing god would know about this, Bronze Age herders would not.
However, let us go back to reality,
                We left off last week just as the earth was being formed. So let us begin with the earliest history of our planet. Our early earth did not resemble the comfortable friendly environment we live in today, the early earth was a ball of hot molten rock, and it looked more like hell than paradise. The first layers to cool down were the outermost layers around 4.4 - 4.5 BYA (billion years ago) the oldest detrital zircon crystals that we have today is from that time period. The early earth was hit by many meteors each one heating up the planet. According to the prevalent theory our moon was formed when an object the size of a small planet collided with the early earth, this is known as the giant impact hypothesis. Although we are not sure that this is indeed how the moon formed, we do know that the moon was formed 4.5 BYA. As the outer layers of the earth got cooler and the inside remained hot, the heat from the inside began flowing outward. Mantle convection, the process that causes most of the earthquakes and volcanoes we experience is due to plate tectonics, which in turn is due to the heat from the middle of the earth flowing outward.
We think that the first real life was formed somewhere around 3.9 – 3.5 BYA. How it came about is still unclear, there are many competing hypotheses all of them possible, some of them more likely than others, we just don’t know yet which one actually happened.  The most probable of them seems to be the "Primordial soup" theory which has been experimentally been shown to be possible. With all the false starts and different ways which early life had formed, around 3.5 BYA a single line of “protocells” seems to have been the source of all life currently on earth.
Early life was simple and lived in the water; it survived the next few billion years while the earth went through the process of freezing over repeatedly. The last of these freezing phases happened around 600 MYA (million years ago), it was after this that evolution began to take off in earnest. Around 542 MYA was the beginning of what is called the Cambrian explosion. This was one of the most exciting times in the history of our little earth. Life diversified and grew in leaps and bounds. The first animals with shells, the first vertebrates, and the first fish evolved in this phase. This lasted until around 488 MYA, however all this diversity of life was all in the water, nothing on the land yet.
The first life moved onto the land around 2.6 BYA, but these were simple single celled Prokaryote. Multi-cellular life, in the form of fungi and algae didn’t make it to the land until the late Cambrian or the early Ordovician around 500 MYA, the oldest fossils of this kind date back to around 470 MYA. We are not sure when the first creatures left the water, the oldest clear evidence goes back at least 450 MYA, however footprints have been found on land that date back to over 530 MYA indicating that animals may have been on land before plants were.
And God said: 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth' and it was so.  And God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and the stars.  And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth. And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
Ok, so we have earth, water, oceans, sky, plants, THEN the sun and stars show up? This is impossible, for so many reasons, firstly, there are stars older than our sun, and the sun is older than the earth. Secondly, oxygen, which is an important part of water, cannot exist until after stars have been born and died. EARTH DID NOT EXIST UNTIL AFTER THE SUN WAS FORMED. Now, on one of these points I was not the first person to notice this absurdity,
                “Rav Pinchas ben Yair says, why did god command on the third day that grass plants and fruit trees should grow and on the fourth day god created the heavenly lights (sun, moon, and stars)? To show you the power of God’s strength that he can make the earth bloom without the heavenly lights.” (http://hebrewbooks.org/33677 it’s in Hebrew, I couldn’t find an English translation, the translation is mine as well and not perfect. The part I am quoting is on page 16)
                In other words in case you were wondering how plants can grow without the sun, don’t. God did it. This is a very important idea if you want to take the bible as truth.
Now the purpose of these lights were not so that we can stay alive, no. thpurpose of the lights were so that we can have days, and seasons, this could not have been written by someone who knew anything about how important the sun is to life, or else it would have mentioned it.
If you noticed it said that god created two great lights, meaning equal, then it refers to one as the greater and one as the lesser. Rashi explains this as follows
They were created equal, but the moon was made smaller because it brought charges and said, “It is impossible for two kings to use the same crown.” - [from Chullin 60b] Rashi (ad loc.) explains that this derash is based on the discrepancy of the two expressions, “the two great luminaries,” which intimates that the moon was a great luminary, and “the lesser luminary,” which intimates that the moon was smaller than the sun. To reconcile this difference, the Rabbis asserted that the moon was originally created equal to the sun, but, because of its complaint that the sun wielded the same power that it wielded, it was forced to relinquish that power.
If anyone knows anything about the sun and the moon, they know that this is impossible. The sun is a great ball of mostly hydrogen and a little helium, the moon is a small little rock made mostly of metallic alloy. These do not resemble each other at all; in addition, their ages are different as well by at least 10 million years. Rashi then goes on to explain the stars with this gem
 Because He diminished the moon, He increased its hosts, to appease it. - [from Gen. Rabbah 46:4 and Chullin 60b] i.e., The stars serve as the entourage of the moon. When it comes out, they accompany it, and when it sets, they too set. [Gen. Rabbah ad loc.]
So let us set up the timeline here first, there was the earth then the sun and the moon, then they have this fight, then the stars are created to accompany the moon. This is absurd for so many reasons, not counting the fact that the sun and the moon do not get into “fights.” First of all, the stars have more to do with the sun than the moon, secondly the stars are out during the day too, they do not set with the moon, you just can’t see them because the sun is too bright, finally as we have seen already so many times, the stars must predate the earth.
And God said: 'Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let fowl fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.' And God created the great sea-monsters, and every living creature that creepeth, wherewith the waters swarmed, after its kind, and every winged fowl after its kind; and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying: 'Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.' And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
WTF, sea monsters? As usual, rashi comes to the rescue
The great fish in the sea, and in the words of the Aggadah (B.B. 74b), this refers to the Leviathan and its mate, for He created them male and female, and He slew the female and salted her away for the righteous in the future, for if they would propagate, the world could not exist because of them. הַתַּנִינִם is written. [I.e., the final “yud,” which denotes the plural, is missing, hence the implication that the Leviathan did not remain two, but that its number was reduced to one.]- [from Gen. Rabbah 7:4, Midrash Caseroth V’Yetheroth , Batei Midrashoth, vol 2, p. 225].
So at the creation of the world one giant leviathan was allowed to stay alive, so we should find one giant fish somewhere under the water that has no mate. Hmm, we should send out an expedition to find it. Well at least we know what the sea monster is.
Another interesting tidbit here is the idea that fish, flies, and birds are all lumped together. This is just flat out wrong. Fish are one of the first kinds of creatures on this planet appearing around 510 MYA. It is hard to define “every living creature that creepeth” since that covers way too much, however the first creature that creepeth, or anthropods first crawled onto land 450 MYA and evolved from fish. Birds on the other hands evolved from dinosaurs and first arrived at the end of the Jurassic period within the last 100 million years, after the animals described on day six.
I want to point out again, this is not my area of expertise anyone with Google can find everything I wrote here, it does not take genius to say that the emperor is naked, it takes courage and honesty. 

19 comments:

  1. "Rav Pinchas ben Yair says, why did god command on the third day that grass plants"

    I have no idea how authoritative Midrash Tadsheh is considered to be by Orthodox Judaism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midrash_Tadshe

    I am not aware of it being studied in any Orthodox rabbinical seminaries.

    It is speculated that it was written by Moses ha-Darshan

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_ha-Darshan

    based on the Book of Jubilees

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Jubilees

    "the Rabbis asserted that the moon was originally created equal to the sun"

    Meaning I assume that it appeared equally bright.

    Anyway, I've reconciled Genesis with science.

    http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2008/09/how-i-understand-genesis.html

    I don't know how atheism can be reconciled with science.

    http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2012/06/special-creations-plural.html

    “it does not take genius to say that the emperor is naked, it takes courage and honesty.”

    I agree. I hope you have that courage and honesty.

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  2. “I have no idea how authoritative Midrash Tadsheh is considered to be by Orthodox Judaism.”

    You can find quoted it in the Friedman Otzar Hamidrashim, found in most yeshivas and shuls

    “Meaning I assume that it appeared equally bright.”

    Yes, and therefore impossible.

    “Anyway, I've reconciled Genesis with science.”

    No you have not, you threw out genesis and confuse science. To quote what you have written there:

    “Genesis 1 lists which days of the week different creations first appeared and are spiritually reenergized today, but it does not indicate in which era they first appeared.”

    No, genesis quite clearly says that they were all created in one week. Furthermore, the further back you go, to times when man was both closer to the original writers of the bible, and understood less about reality, the more literally the genesis account is taken. Now I understand why a modern man with even a rudimentary understanding of the scientific facts about our planet cannot accept this, and therefore, in response to what science has revealed to be true you drop what genesis clearly states in deference to reality. I applaud this and beg of you to continue doing so with the rest of the bible.

    “We are all descended from one man who was created in 3762 BCE”

    We do not, the last “man” we are all descendant from lived around 100,000 years ago, maybe a little less
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y-Chromosomal_Adam

    The last woman we all descended from lived around 200,000 years ago

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

    In addition, they were not “created” they were born, as we can tell by the amount of DNA we share with other living things.

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  3. "You can find quoted it in the Friedman Otzar Hamidrashim, found in most yeshivas and shuls"

    Is it ever quoted by any world renown rabbi? It seems to me that if you want to invalidate Judaism you need to use sources which are universally accepted as valid by Jews.

    Additionally, let me quote the words of Nachmanides which he once said in a similar situation, when debating with a Jewish apostate in Barcelona in 1263:

    Know that we Jews have three types of books. The first is the Bible, and we all believe it completely. The second is called Talmud, and it is a commentary on the merits of the Torah. For in the Torah there are 613 commandments and there is not one of them that is not explained in the Talmud. We believe in the Talmud concerning explanation of the commandments. We have yet a third book called Midrash, that is sermons. This is analogous to the bishop standing and giving a sermon, with one of the listeners deciding to write it. In regard to this book, those who believe it well and good, but those who do not believe it do no harm.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disputation_of_Barcelona

    http://www.israel613.com/books/RAMBAN_DISPUTE_E.pdf

    "Yes, and therefore impossible."

    If the moon was reflective perfectly like a mirror, then it would appear as bright as the sun. As you know, from earth, both the moon and sun appear to be the same size.

    "No, genesis quite clearly says that they were all created in one week."

    Indeed, they were and still are.

    "Furthermore, the further back you go, to times when man was both closer to the original writers of the bible, and understood less about reality, the more literally the genesis account is taken. "

    If so, then why does the Mishneh state

    אין דורשין בעריות בשלושה, ולא במעשה בראשית בשניים

    http://www.mechon-mamre.org/b/h/h2c.htm

    "We may not explain the story of creation to more than one person at a time."

    If it's just a simple little story, there should be no problem. In reality, even 2,000 years ago the rabbis understood that the story of creation was filled with hidden mystical meanings. My interpretation is surely not an ad hoc apologetic, since it is based on sources written centuries before any apology was required.

    "We do not, the last “man” we are all descendant from lived around 100,000 years ago, maybe a little less"

    I think that's actually pretty speculative.

    http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2010/12/researching-family-tree.html

    "In addition, they were not “created” they were born, as we can tell by the amount of DNA we share with other living things. "

    Sure. And by the same token my car was not “built" it was born, as we can tell by the number of components it shares with many other machines.

    It's therefore clear that while science entirely refutes atheism

    http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2012/06/special-creations-plural.html

    it in no way invalidates Judaism.

    http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2008/09/how-i-understand-genesis.html

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  6. “Is it ever quoted by any world renown rabbi?”

    This particular edition has haskomas from (and im only writing the litvaks, since you claim to be one) rav shienberg, rav nisim karelitz, and the badatz (including the then gavad rav deshunsky.) This should suffice unless you, like me, have come to realize that haskomas almost never mean anything more than a donation, or a favor owed, not that they sefer was read and found to be accurate.

    Regarding your point about nachmanidies, I agree, however my point with that quote from r pinchas ben yair was that, as we go further back, we see more and more of genesis being taken literally. I would take it a step further and say that a man’s knowledge of the workings of the world is inversely proportionate to his taking everything in the bible seriously. You have the liberty to laugh at those who take genesis literally thanks only to science, and this trend will continue as we keep learning more about the world and more about the silliness of all superstitions, until all religion and superstition is kept only in history books.

    “My interpretation is surely not an ad hoc apologetic, since it is based on sources written centuries before any apology was required.”

    Again, this is false, at the time of the mishna, natural explanations for the working of our world was well under way thanks to the greek tradition of natural philosophy. Even with the little information they had back then, there was an awakening to the inaccuracy of the biblical account of creation, therefore, care was taken as to how to present it so that people will not, quite simply, laugh at it.

    “If the moon was reflective perfectly like a mirror, then it would appear as bright as the sun. As you know, from earth, both the moon and sun appear to be the same size.”

    It would still not be as bright as the sun since 1. It is only reflecting light therefore is only getting a tiny portion of the light the sun is emitting, and 2. Even if the light per square meter were exactly the same (which it could not) the surface area is so drastically different it could not ever compare (6.0877×10^12 km2 vs. 3.793 × 10^7 km2)

    “Sure. And by the same token my car was not “built" it was born, as we can tell by the number of components it shares with many other machines.”

    This is so far beyond absurd; I do not even know how to respond.

    In conclusion, I understand why a modern man with even a rudimentary understanding of the scientific facts about our planet cannot accept genesis as factual, and therefore, in response to what science has revealed to be true you drop what genesis clearly states in deference to reality. I applaud this trend and beg of you to continue doing so with the rest of the bible and eventually, god as well.

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  7. "You have the liberty to laugh at those who take genesis literally thanks only to science"

    I have the liberty to laugh at those who take atheism seriously thanks only to science.

    http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2012/06/special-creations-plural.html

    "It would still not be as bright as the sun since"

    I actually think it would. Although the moon is much smaller than the sun, it is much closer, meaning that both would appear identical if the moon had not become pockmarked with craters.

    "This is so far beyond absurd"

    Not at all. The similarities of all life simply confirm the existence the one creator, not the existence of one common ancestor.

    In conclusion, I must suggest a new name for the blog: Mutterings of a Dysfunctional Yeshiva Bochur.

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  9. I think when critiquing Judaism, you must take a few basic principles into consideration.

    First of all, Talmudic science may be erroneous.

    “You must, however, not expect that everything our Sages say respecting astronomical matters should agree with observation, for mathematics were not fully developed in those days: and their statements were not based on the authority of the Prophets, but on the knowledge which they either themselves possessed or derived from contemporary men of science.” Maimonides Guide for the Perplexed, CHAPTER XIV

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/gfp/gfp150.htm

    Secondly, the midrashim may be erroneous.

    "We have yet a third book called Midrash, that is sermons. This is analogous to the bishop standing and giving a sermon, with one of the listeners deciding to write it. In regard to this book, those who believe it well and good, but those who do not believe it do no harm." Nachmanides, Barcelona Disputation

    http://www.israel613.com/books/RAMBAN_DISPUTE_E.pdf

    Thirdly, the Talmudic Aggada may be allegorical.

    "The third approach is to recognise that many Aggadot are intended to teach profound truths, and that the teachings thus operate on two levels: "overt" and "hidden". Thus any impossible assertion was, in fact, intended as a parable; further, where aggadot can be understood literally, they may be taken on this level. This is, in general, the view of the Rabbis. "It is proper … to carefully analyse [the aggadot] … when any of these seem far-fetched we must immerse ourselves in the various branches of knowledge until we understand the concepts." (Maimonides,in his preface to the tenth chapter of Tractate Sanhedrin)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggadah#Interpretation_of_the_Aggadah

    I think that this will pretty much invalidate your critique of Judaism.

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  10. "meaning that both would appear identical if the moon had not become pockmarked with craters"

    even without craters the moon would still not be a mirror, by any stretch of the imagination.

    and regarding your other point about how not to take gemorah seriously, you are once again proving my point that the further along our knowledge of the working of the universe is, the more we stop taking religious texts as absolutly true.

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  11. It depends which text.

    Discrediting Judaism by proving false the literal meaning of a text which Jews don't necessarily believe in or take literally is called "attacking a straw man", a logical fallacy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

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  13. So the Bible isn't literal, the Talmudic science may be wrong, the midrashim are erroneous, and the aggada is allegorical. I'm confused... Are any of them true??

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    1. i think that only a fool would see them as true. i simply demonstrate that even among the religious there is a trend that as time goes on, less and less of their texts are taken as true in the literal sense. however and to run that in reverse, one can assume that the writers intended all of it to be read as true in the literal sense, which i demonstrate as well cannot be true.

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  14. Well, according to rabbinical Judaism, the Bible certainly isn't entirely literal. For example "an eye for an eye" is explained by the Talmud to financial compensation, not judicial amputation.

    http://www.ou.org/about/judaism/torah.htm

    It's complicated. Why don't you check out a yeshiva and learn more?

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    1. ive been in yeshiva for years... your point?

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  15. Learning in yeshiva (not just being in one) would help one to understand what exactly rabbinical Judaism teaches.

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  16. i learn most of the day, and the more i learn, the more i lose respect for it. the more i hear "daas torah," the more i lose respect for it. the more i hear your drivel, the more i lose respect for it.

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  17. Coincidentally, the more I learn about atheism the more I lose respect for it.

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