Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dawkins and a Hasidic Rabbi



This is one section of a series of clips taken from Dawkin's documentary show titled "The Root of All Evil," where he goes around interviewing various religious believers about their beliefs. The primary thesis being that religious faith is irrational and oftentimes dangerous.

The segment with the Hasidic rabbi starts at around the six minute mark here. My only issue is that I think they cut it off before it really got interesting.

I don't agree with everything that Dawkins says, but him and I are more likeminded than I and Rabbi Gluck.

51 comments:

Baal Habos said...

OP, just fascinating. Assuming he understood in advance awhat the interview was, why on earth would this Rabbi Gluck agree to be interviewed? Obviously he thought he could come up with some contr-position, but it was so weak. Also interesting how he claimed that all children knew about evolution. Yes, the learned it like this: "the atheists think they came from monkeys".

B. Spinoza said...

we lable people by nationality. I wonder if he has a problem with that?

Manny said...

What I found particularly annoying is that it almost seemed like Dawkins purpose was to tweak religious folk. Yeah, I know that he is a fundamentalist atheist but he came across as just as intolerant as anyone in the video.

One of Dawkin's primarily themes is that evil derives directly from religious intolerance. I would have liked to see someone challenge him on science/rationalism and morality, with especial emphasis on the Nazi regime.

But oh, man, did Rabbi Gluck come across poorly, especially with his claims regarding Jewish kids knowing about evolution.

For the longer videos from which this is excerpted, search on Richard Dawkins on google video.

Manny said...

Oh yeah, the interview with Yusuf Khattab (Joseph Cohen) - scary stuff!

Orthoprax said...

Baal,

"Assuming he understood in advance awhat the interview was, why on earth would this Rabbi Gluck agree to be interviewed?"

Maybe he just wanted to meet Richard Dawkins. If you think he's popular here, you can only imagine what a personality he is in his home country.


Spinoza,

"we lable people by nationality. I wonder if he has a problem with that?"

You mean Dawkins? He seems to take a strong position against cultural divisions, yet how can you foster a tradition and cultural identity (which he seems to be ok with at the end of this clip) if everyone is a big mish mash?

I think he's only against divisions for religious reasons - the same way he's against anything for religious reasons.


Manny,

"What I found particularly annoying is that it almost seemed like Dawkins purpose was to tweak religious folk."

Yeah, I noticed that. It goes to the very way he poses his questions, which he does in order to get a rise out of them. So he asks, 'Why should children be the victims of the particular traditions in which they happen to be born?"

Victims? That the way culture works. You can't just leave a kid without any cultural influences until they turn 18. I think the rabbi answered that part pretty well, if not for his roundabout language.

"I would have liked to see someone challenge him on science/rationalism and morality, with especial emphasis on the Nazi regime."

I don't see how that would do anything. Few people would say that the Nazi regime was a rational one. Even the science behind the Nazi ideology was bogus.

"But oh, man, did Rabbi Gluck come across poorly, especially with his claims regarding Jewish kids knowing about evolution."

That part was pretty bad, but I thought was worse was how he equated the scientific beliefs with the "traditions" of the scientists. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the scientific method.

"Oh yeah, the interview with Yusuf Khattab (Joseph Cohen) - scary stuff!"

Yeah, that guy is nutty. Seems to get lots of attention though.

Manny said...

"I would have liked to see someone challenge him on science/rationalism and morality, with especial emphasis on the Nazi regime."

I don't see how that would do anything. Few people would say that the Nazi regime was a rational one. Even the science behind the Nazi ideology was bogus.

True, but my point was that the concepts of ethics and morality are simply not part of the rubric of science. One may argue about how effective religion has been in promulgating proper moral behavior throughout history, but not with its concern with - and development of - such concepts.

happywithhislot said...

you owe me a hat tip.
i posted on this a couple of weeks ago.

Orthoprax said...

Happy,

Did you? I would willingly have done so, but I didn't know that. I actually came across these videos on a random afternoon surfing through YouTube.

happywithhislot said...

i inlcude 2 snippets
http://happywithhislot.blogspot.com/2006/09/lakewood-yid-look-in-mirror.html

alex said...

A few observations:

Does Dawkins educate his own children about atheism, or does he indoctrinate them?

If he would've spoken to someone like R' Slifkin, for example, Dawkin's approach vis-a-vis evolution would've been totally different. I wonder what angle Dawkins would've taken?

I wonder what Dawkins feels about the following book: http://www.csustan.edu/History/Faculty/Weikart/FromDarwintoHitler.htm
(see related video: http://webcast.ucsd.edu:8080/ramgen/UCSD_TV/8987.rm )

Orthoprax's statement: "Even the science behind the Nazi ideology was bogus" is probably irrelevant. We're not discussing their hate ideology, but rather their atheistic ideology. There's no science /behind/ atheistic ideology -- rather, it's a premise.

If religion is the root of all evil, Dawkins might want to explain from where he got his 'evil' of snarkiness.

And speaking of evil...
38 Million :: killed in battle in all the wars of the 20th Century.
169 Million :: killed by government-sponsored terror in the 20th century, including persecution, genocide and mass murder of their own citizens.* *Source: Vejas G. Liulevicius, “Defining Utopia and Terror,” Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century (Lecture 1), The Teaching Company.

The worst culprits? Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Zedong. (Few Chassidic rebbes made the list. ;-/ )

Orthoprax said...

Alex,

"Does Dawkins educate his own children about atheism, or does he indoctrinate them?"

I'll let Dawkins answer that one:

"I had always been scrupulously careful to avoid the smallest suggestion of infant indoctrination, which I think is ultimately responsible for much of the evil in the world. Others, less close to her [Juliet, his daughter], showed no such scruples, which upset me, as I very much wanted her, as I want all children, to make up her own mind freely when she became old enough to do so. I would encourage her to think, without telling her what to think."

"I wonder what angle Dawkins would've taken?"

In another section of the show he interviews a liberal Anglican minister. He basically liked a lot of what the guy had to say, but he couldn't fathom this 'pick and choose' attitude to understanding the Bible. How does he know what to take literally and what to take metaphorically?

"I wonder what Dawkins feels about the following book:"

He probably wouldn't think very much of it. As he says:

"Stalin was an atheist and Hitler probably wasn't, but even if he was… the bottom line is very simple. Individual atheists may do evil things but they don't do evil things in the name of atheism."

"We're not discussing their hate ideology, but rather their atheistic ideology."

Nazism wasn't based on atheism so I don't understand where you're going with that.

"The worst culprits? Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Zedong. (Few Chassidic rebbes made the list. ;-/ )"

Personally I don't agree with Dawkins. I think evil of this nature is based on following irrational ideologies, not necessarily irrational religious ideologies. Nazism, Fascism and militant Communism of the past century was just as irrational and evil as Islamism is today. We're just lucky that the terrorists don't have real armies.

alex said...

"Stalin was an atheist and Hitler probably wasn't, but even if he was… the bottom line is very simple. Individual atheists may do evil things but they don't do evil things in the name of atheism."

Maybe not in the name of atheism, but in the name of another 'ism' that was based on, or heavily informed by, atheism.

alex said...

"I very much wanted her... to make up her own mind freely when she became old enough to do so. I would encourage her to think, without telling her what to think."

And if she made up her own mind freely to believe in God, why do I expect that Dawkins wouldn't let it happen without a fight?

Orthoprax said...

Alex,

"Maybe not in the name of atheism, but in the name of another 'ism' that was based on, or heavily informed by, atheism."

I'm not sure what you're getting at. I think you'd agree that atheism does not intrinsically lead to people doing terrible things. I doesn't really inspire people to do great things either. Having a philosophy of a stam atheist is no philosophy at all.

"And if she made up her own mind freely to believe in God, why do I expect that Dawkins wouldn't let it happen without a fight?"

I don't know Dawkins all that well, but I do think he's opposed to indoctrination. Maybe he'd argue with his daughter, but I don't suppose that he'd manipulate her.

When asked, 'How would you feel if your daughter became religious in the future?'

He replied:

"Well, that would be her decision and obviously she’s her own person, she’s free to do whatever she likes. I think she’s much too intelligent to do that, but that’s her decision."

alex said...

"I'm not sure what you're getting at."
The video link I provided above (webcast...) explains it better than I can.

alex said...

Concerning "indoctrination", it might be helpful to see how the dictionary defines it:

1. to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., esp. to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view.
2. to teach or inculcate.
3. to imbue with learning.
4. brainwash, propagandize.

When anybody -- whether an atheist or a believer -- educates his children, he is using most of these definitions. So maybe people like Dawkins should just drop the word "indoctrinate" among his list of religious crimes, and simply say "teach false things."

Orthoprax said...

Alez,

"The video link I provided above (webcast...) explains it better than I can."

I couldn't see the video, but I presume this is about the Darwin to Hitler claim? Darwinism isn't the same as atheism. Nor was it based on or informed by atheism.

"So maybe people like Dawkins should just drop the word "indoctrinate" among his list of religious crimes, and simply say "teach false things.""

It's not the teaching false things that is so much the issue but of giving unsuspecting children a biased education so that they will fall in line to whatever you want them to believe.

alex said...

"giving unsuspecting children a biased education so that they will fall in line to whatever you want them to believe."

Such as atheism, for instance.

Orthoprax said...

Alex,

"Such as atheism, for instance."

Potentially. But I honestly do not think Dawkins wants a kid who can't think for herself.

Miri said...

firstly, it was part of the Nazi credo that the Jews needed to be exterminated. one of the reasons given for this by Hitler in many of his speeches was that they brought the idea of G-d and morality into the world. (sorry I don't have a direct quote on me.) so if you want to say that evil was perpetrated in the name of Nazism, which had a basic tnet of atheism...I think there's wiggle room.
secondly, Rabbi Gluck may not have come across strongly in his interview, but he did come across as at least having more of an intellectual thought process happening than Dawkins. the man did nothing but make absolute and unfounded statements displaying absolutely nothing of logic or reason. also, he nicely ignored the fact that many many scientist no longer believe that evolution has any validity at all, even as a theory. I could say the same thing for the whole clip - I saw very little of anything even vaguely resembling an intellectual thought process anywhere; it came off as pure, unfounded, dogmatic propoganda. nice representation of the scientific process there.
thirdly, why did the Rabbi let himself be interviewed? have you ever attepmted an intellectual discussion with a Rabbi? this is their dream opportunity - they see themselves as one of those Rabbis forced to debate Christianity with the great royal theologians. Jews love to argue, and they especially love to argue with atheists.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"firstly, it was part of the Nazi credo that the Jews needed to be exterminated. one of the reasons given for this by Hitler in many of his speeches was that they brought the idea of G-d and morality into the world."

Hitler was against the "slave morality" that the Jews brought into the world as Nietzsche would put it. But Hitler also believed in some sort of God since he considered the Aryans to be God's special creation and often spoke of the will of God in his writings.

"secondly, Rabbi Gluck may not have come across strongly in his interview, but he did come across as at least having more of an intellectual thought process happening than Dawkins."

To me, it sounded like he was trying to think his way out of cornered logic. The students aren't taught evolution, they're 'taught' why evolution is silly.

"also, he nicely ignored the fact that many many scientist no longer believe that evolution has any validity at all, even as a theory."

I don't believe you'll find any scientist of any worth who would say evolution has zero value as a theory. Even the ID folks give evolution some credit.

I don't know where you think you're getting your information but evolution is well understood to be an accurate theory by scientists in general and especially by experts in the field.

Generally those who reject evolution are religious folks who feel dogmatically required to do so.

"have you ever attepmted an intellectual discussion with a Rabbi?"

I have. I've posted it elsewhere on the blog. He came off as very apologetic and unconvincing.

Miri said...

(I apologize in advance for the length of this post. sorry.)
the comment I made about Hitler's position on Jews bringing morality into the world did not come out of my own head; I took a Holacaust course several years ago, and am almost sure I was paaraphrasing a direct quote. however, I have been unable to recover this quote, so I will let the point lie for now, except to say that quoting Hitler is sort of mott, since he frequently contradicted himself and/or lied publicly throughout his career. I mention this bc he has been quoted in many places saying all sorts of stuff about G-d and religion. he also claims to have been religously tolerant at one point in his life. so...you know. he wasn't the most emotionally or rationally stable guy around.

Rabbi Gluck may have sounded like he was "trying o think his way out of cornered logic" - but note how both the words "thinking" and "logic" appeared in that sentence. neither could have appeared in any sentence describing Dawkins during the course of that entire clip. my point was not that Rabbi Gluck's argument was foolproof or even strong -rather, it was that he had an argument, while Dawkins simply made bald statements based on seemingly nothing. (I say seemingly nothing bc he provided the viewer with no actual facts or thought process during the entire thing- just his "concern for the children." heaven help us, we're all "concerned for the children." the poor things fall down and scrape themselves up quite a bit.)
as to scientists not believing in evolution, again I have no direct names or quotes for you. I did attempt to find something, but I must not be putting the right words into the search thingy. let me just say this; to blatantly accept the theory of evolution without a presentation of the theory itself, along with statistics, probability, even-handed arguments from both sides, etc, is just as bad as blatantly accepting religion without being "exposed to other options." the main thrust of my whole point was that there was no discussion, debate, presentation of facts, or process of rational or intellectual thought displayed on Dawkins' part; just dogma. slightly ironic?

lastly, my point abt the discussion with the Rabbi thing was, "if you have (and I don't doubt that you have) you'll know how much they love to argue."
may I ask, was it just the one Rabbi, or a bunch? and how in depth did the argument go? I personally have practically made a career of it, and my opinion on this point is; you will never get as broad, as deep as ACCURATE a picture of Orthodox and halachik Judaism as if you argue as many halachikally observant Jews as you can get your hands on. especially rabbis. one just isn't enough, my friend; that would imply that that's all there was to the journey and I think you and I both hope the journey wasn't quite that brief and shallow.

Miri said...

"quoting Hitler is sort of moot-" not mott. sorry, thought I proofread this before publishing.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"the comment I made about Hitler's position on Jews bringing morality into the world did not come out of my own head"

I don't disagree with it. I disagree with what you said before regarding how Hitler charged the Jews for bringing _God_ into the world.

"while Dawkins simply made bald statements based on seemingly nothing"

The purpose of the video was not to prove evolution. It was to show the bad side of religion. If you want to see how Dawkin's goes about evolution you just have to read his books.

"to blatantly accept the theory of evolution without a presentation of the theory itself, along with statistics, probability, even-handed arguments from both sides, etc, is just as bad as blatantly accepting religion without being "exposed to other options.""

I don't disagree. Generally though, the arguments coming from the anti-evolutionist side are made up by laymen with religious agendas. All things being equal, I would take the word of the experts in the field over other guys.

"may I ask, was it just the one Rabbi, or a bunch? and how in depth did the argument go?"

I've spoken with several rabbis but I only have one on my blog here saved in format. You can read it for yourself.

"I personally have practically made a career of it, and my opinion on this point is..."

Some might say then that you have a vested interest...

"if you argue as many halachikally observant Jews as you can get your hands on. especially rabbis. one just isn't enough, my friend"

With no exaggeration, I've discussed these issues with hundreds of Orthodox Jews.

Miri said...

(I'm sorry if this is getting irritating; I suppose I should just let it go at this point, only I'm still not sure you're hearing me...)

the purpose in saying it didn't come out of my own head was bc I beleive it to be an actual quote- ie something he actually said. I can't find it for the moment; I'll e-mail it to you when I do.

to create an entire viewing program just to prove why something is bad requires that this be proven, such as by contrast to something "good." I could make an entire program proving that carrots is bad by using the same tactics: "do you deny that by not exposing children to other options (such as not eating carrots,) you are actually indoctrinating and thus victimizing them? shouldn't they be fully informed about all of their vegetable options?"
my entire thesis here is that Dawkins fails to prove anything. he fails to prove that religion is bad; he fails to prove that evolution is good; he fails to prove that children are actually being indoctrinated (note that not a single actual lesson was filmed, I mean with the teacher talking); and worst of all, he fails to prove anything at all abt the scientific method of reasoning and experimentation, nor why it should be favored over anything else. in fact, he failed to prove himself a scientist. (I know he's a scientist, I mean that he wasn't proceeding in a scientific manner.) he actually perpetuated quite a nice bit of dogma in the name of science. shouldn't that be, to scientists, the equivalent of a religous person blaspheming? or are we now accepting science as the new dogma, and that's ok with ppl who don't like dogma, bc once you give it another name, it's not a big deal anymore?

I'm not exactly sure what you meant by vested interest, or what you thought I meant with my remark; however I suppose you could say that I do have a vested interest in arguing for the sake of argument. I'm very much in favor. I like it when people think.

my point there was, the more ppl you argue with, especially the more varied the type of person, (and rabbi)the wider the scope of vision gets; and even in orthodox judaism, the scope of vision can get pretty damn wide...I speak from a lifetime of rabbis and orthodox Jews, not just several or even hundreds, and I know I still don't have the whole picture, so...anyway, that was really more a question of idle curiosity and nosiness. suppose it's not actually any of my business is it?;)

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"I'll e-mail it to you when I do."

Ok, you know where to find me.

"to create an entire viewing program just to prove why something is bad requires that this be proven, such as by contrast to something "good.""

You don't need to show that something is bad by comparing it to something that's good. A lot of that is implied in the film. Since we're on topic, if I were making a film about why Nazism is bad, it would be out of place and superfluous for me to then include a series of sequences showing the benefits of representative government.

"he fails to prove that religion is bad;"

I guess you didn't see the whole film.

"he fails to prove that evolution is good;"

He's not trying to, so I don't get why that would be important. His point is that indoctrination is not good and he just uses evolution as an example of something that he regards as an important scientific idea that is true that is being denied.

Clearly, if you don't believe that evolution is true (and that the scientific evidence is overwhelming on this point) then much of his argument loses its effectiveness. He's playing to those who agree that evolution is true, but may not see how religion is evil.

"I'm not exactly sure what you meant by vested interest, or what you thought I meant with my remark"

It was tongue in cheek. If you make a living out of this stuff then you may have some commercial interest in how it turns out.

"suppose it's not actually any of my business is it?;)"

You asked, I freely answered. If I didn't want to answer I was free not to. I'm just curious about you, how many skeptics have you spoken to about these issues?

Miri said...

I only brought up the goodness by contrast thing as an example of a technique for proving that something is bad. and no, I only saw the clip you included here. really, I ought to find the whole thing and watch it before I make absolute statements.as to trying to prove evolution is good...it seemed to me that Dawkins himself set up that contrast; evolution=truth religion=evil. maybe I misinterpreted something. simply an important scientific principle that was being denied...eh. could be but I feel like maybe he exaggerated the point a little more than neccessary.

"He's trying to prove that indoctrination is not good..."
but see, that there's my point. why would he try to prove indoctrination evil via a piece of dogmatic propoganda- the very stuff of indoctrination itself?
if nothing else, it's simply a self-disproving and thereby thoroughly ineffective tool.starting a revolution against indoctrination via indoctrination...am I the only one who finds this ironic?
to put it as plainly as I can manage at the moment; the man sounds extremely and blatantly dogmatic for one who claims to be crusading against the evils of dogma...

"Clearly, if you don't believe evolution is true...then much of his argument loses its effectiveness." again, I didn't see the whole thing, but the statement "I would go so far as to say that evolution is a fact-" is not an argument. its a statement. maybe I'm just being nitpicky abt the semantics, but I keep trying to make the same point - he's NOT arguing, he's just saying stuff. from what I saw.


as to skeptics debated...quite a few. (I've also been the skeptic on numerous occasions- a couple times sincerely, usually as devil's advocate.) most of them have not displayed logic, reasoning, or emprically proven facts beyond what I myself could provide; but that speaks of the debaters and not the theories debated. I have found in none of those arguments a logic especially more founded than that of my own thought process. see my problem isn't with the theory itself; I neither know nor, truly, care enough about evolution to debate the theory itself. my problem is with the thinkers who claim they're so much more rational, logical, thoughtful, backed up with empirically proven scientific evidence than those poor ignorant religous ppl who were clearly caught before they had a chance to escape and had their brains sucked out by their religous leaders so that they were completely incapable of thinking on their own....I can tell you there are many religous people who don't think so much. I can also tell you there are many non-religous ppl who also don't think so much- many in the name of atheism (Dawkins forbid its name be taken in vain.)the thinking people will always be in the minority, bc that's what people are like. I take issue with the assumption that all religous people are cattle, spoonfed on the same ideas and theories and bedtime stories which we all accept unquestioningly. and I take issue with Dawkins making that assumption and not making any real efforts to try and disprove himself before accepting it as fact. it just isn't true. I've alread ranted on this on my own blog, I don't have the energy to do it again here....

well, I do have a commercial interest; G-d willing, I intend to be a teacher, so I'm doing my best to brush up on my brainwashing skills now.;)

(brief disclaimer; it's nearly three am here, and I'm not sure how coherently I responded to everything...anyway hope my point came across to some extent.)

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"I ought to find the whole thing and watch it before I make absolute statements."

The whole this is online on youtube. You can watch it in several segments of about the length of the one I have here.

"to put it as plainly as I can manage at the moment; the man sounds extremely and blatantly dogmatic for one who claims to be crusading against the evils of dogma..."

A valid point. Even though I largely agree with him on scientific issues his approach to it often seems authoritative and bossy. But he hasn't done real scientific work in years.

""I would go so far as to say that evolution is a fact-" is not an argument. its a statement."

Correct, but like I said, he isn't trying to prove evolution. It's not his intent.

"most of them have not displayed logic, reasoning, or emprically proven facts beyond what I myself could provide; but that speaks of the debaters and not the theories debated."

Indeed. You might want to look around the skeptical blogosphere. Quite a few smart folks here.

"my problem is with the thinkers who claim they're so much more rational, logical, thoughtful, backed up with empirically proven scientific evidence than those poor ignorant religous ppl who were clearly caught before they had a chance to escape"

That's fair, but it is also plainly true that religion is generally not based on rationality or facts. I'm sure you'd agree with that statement about every other religion except your own, right? ;-)

Miri said...

k, so I wrote a response to this last night, but apparently it didn't go through. I will try to re-create what I already wrote.
I have looked around the skeptical blogosphere quite a bit; they are largely among those who contribute to my frustration in this area.
maybe I should spend a bit more time, but one can only be on the computer for so long.

I happen to think that no belief is really abt the logic and the rationality. belief in anything (including atheism) is mostly perceptual, and perception is mostly colored by emotion. logical argument only takes you so far, in both directions, and at some point you always reach the jumping point that is the leap of faith; the leap of faith you take when you believe in G-d is the same leap of faith you take when you decide not to believe in G-d. which is to say, you can no more disprove G-d's existence than you can prove it. basically, we all believe what we want to believe, and logic be damned - but that includes the atheists as well as the religous.
as to other religions; Christianity and Islam are based largely off of Judaism anyway, and I don't know enough abt any other religions to make further comments.

Miri said...

k, so I wrote a response to this last night, but apparently it didn't go through. I will try to re-create what I already wrote.
I have looked around the skeptical blogosphere quite a bit; they are largely among those who contribute to my frustration in this area.
maybe I should spend a bit more time, but one can only be on the computer for so long.

I happen to think that no belief is really abt the logic and the rationality. belief in anything (including atheism) is mostly perceptual, and perception is mostly colored by emotion. logical argument only takes you so far, in both directions, and at some point you always reach the jumping point that is the leap of faith; the leap of faith you take when you believe in G-d is the same leap of faith you take when you decide not to believe in G-d. which is to say, you can no more disprove G-d's existence than you can prove it. basically, we all believe what we want to believe, and logic be damned - but that includes the atheists as well as the religous.
as to other religions; Christianity and Islam are based largely off of Judaism anyway, and I don't know enough abt any other religions to make further comments.

Miri said...

sorry abt the double comment, I accidentally clicked twice when I shouldn't have.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"I happen to think that no belief is really abt the logic and the rationality....and at some point you always reach the jumping point that is the leap of faith; the leap of faith you take when you believe in G-d is the same leap of faith you take when you decide not to believe in G-d."

I think rational beliefs are based on rationality and facts. I'm not an atheist but I understand how they think. It is a very different approach to assume that x is true and another to assume that x is not true until one sees evidence to support the claim.

There is actually no leaps of faith for the atheist. It is an assumption based on not enough information. They would argue that just like there is no real evidence of faires, there is no evidence of gods and dismiss both claims as without standing.

Atheists don't need to disprove god, generally they just argue that the claim hasn't been proven in the first place.

"we all believe what we want to believe, and logic be damned"

I disagree. Maybe that's how it works for you, but I have seen - and experienced myself - a longing for the simpler times of belief in theism while the intellect cannot conscience it.

But anyway, atheism vs theism is just the tip of a very large iceberg. The true question is how you get from God to all the minutiae of religious life. You have to make a lot of leaps of faith, not just one.

Miri said...

I don't really think I believe in "rational beliefs." I think people use logic and rationality to justify what they already believe, and what they believe is based on how they percieve the wold, which is affected by the myriads of tiny things that make up every aspect of our personalities, history and day to day existence.

I also don't believe in "evidence to support the claim." by the way, people who claim simply that G-d's existence hasn't been proven are technically agnostics; atheist, by strict definition, means someone who knows without a doubt that G-d does not exist. since you can neither prove nor disprove G-d's existence, a lot of people claim to be atheists who actually aren't. (most religous people will tell you (although I'm sure you already know this) that if you were to prove G-d's existence, you would remove man's free will.)
"Atheists...just argue that the claim hasn't been proven in the first place." this is why I find this argument weak. it's kind of like the situation in the middle east. I'm sure you can find every little thing that's wrong with it; but if you don't have a working replacable solution/idea/theory, I'm not all that impressed. anyone can criticize. so what?

I have never longed for the simpler times when all you needed was the simple belief. first of all, that's kind of bull - to assume that there was a time when there were no Jews who actually thought about G-d? I'm assuming you know Jews, right? and maybe a tiny bit of Jewish history? the people who went on simple faith were called "amei haaretz"- the unlearned ones. what about the Rambam? or the Besht? the Ramchal? any Rabbi who was put into cherem in the last 2000 years or so? in case you haven't noticed, Jews don't cow that easily - not now, not ever.
and lets be honest with ourselves. if you were G-d, would you really want the people you'd given the gifts of intelligence and intellectual integrity to to squash those powers in favor of some misguided concept of what one person said they thought faith was supposed to be? maybe it was easier for those people who were never burdened with overactive thought proceses, but since when does G-d prize ease over all things? as far as I can recall, never.

look, Avraham Avinu wasn't known for his emunah bc it came easily to him. the man didn't discover G-d until the age of seventy. you think He would have appreciated it more if Avraham just woke up one morning and said "hey, maybe I'll believe in one G-d today. that'd be something new and different." Avraham struggled for his faith more than any other human being ever, and that's why it was the greatest faith ever. and you don't struggle with the things that come naturally.
what is my point here? that I don't think faith is simple. nor do I think it's simplistic. I mean I know that approach works for some people, and that's fine. but I think it's possible for intellectuals to have a much deeper, more complex, even a more grounded and strong relationship with G-d bc of the fact that they struggle for it constantly.

as to "all the minutiae of religous life..." yeah that's a million seperate stories all on their own. unfortunately, I know too little to attempt venturing into that area.
(sorry abt the ranting. it's something that's been on my mind a lot lately.)

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"I don't really think I believe in "rational beliefs.""

By saying that you are pretty much undermining any kind of argument you could ever make in favor of any position. People who follow reason will change their views in accordance with it.

"I also don't believe in "evidence to support the claim." by the way, people who claim simply that G-d's existence hasn't been proven are technically agnostics; atheist, by strict definition, means someone who knows without a doubt that G-d does not exist"

That is, in fact, a very strict definition and most atheists would disagree with you. To be without belief in God is enough to be an atheist. You don't need to have a positive belief that God does not exist.

"(although I'm sure you already know this) that if you were to prove G-d's existence, you would remove man's free will.)"

That, in itself, is a pretty silly argument. You probably believe that at Sinai the Israelites were presented with unambiguous proof that God exists, right? Yet they still managed to freely sin before God many times.

"I have never longed for the simpler times when all you needed was the simple belief."

That's because you've never been a skeptic. You are still within the rubric of bliss that so many skeptics simply consider ignorance.

"first of all, that's kind of bull"

I was referring to my own life experience, when as a child I blissfully accepted the dogma without issue.

"if you were G-d, would you really want the people you'd given the gifts of intelligence and intellectual integrity to to squash those powers in favor of some misguided concept of what one person said they thought faith was supposed to be?"

I'm not God. But it is fully apparent that that is exactly how most religions and religious people function. That's the very concept of dogma that cannot be questioned or else we kick you out of the community.

"but I think it's possible for intellectuals to have a much deeper, more complex, even a more grounded and strong relationship with G-d bc of the fact that they struggle for it constantly."

Perhaps. But woe be it to them if they consider opinions that the massed multitude believe to be heresy.

Anonymous said...

Well Orthoprax I saw that Dawkins clip you put up. If the rest of the program is like what I saw then I don't have any use for it. I learned that Richard Dawkins has intolerant views and is a chutzpanick. If I were a movie critic I’d squirm in my seat. He mentions part of the theory of Evolution that I already know. He mentions at first six thousand years and then switches to five thousand years as a Jewish tradition. Oh well rounding off mistakes are always common in science and life. In short what new have I learned from that clip? That a scientist can allow a whole clip worth of a show to say absolutely nothing. Rabbi Gluck perhaps does not understand what the word theory means in science (but he knows how to be polite. Dawkins is notorious for lacking in that field) but so does Dawkins misunderstand why in science a law is still called a theory. In every other branch of science if someone comes up with an objection it is labeled a challenge. Mainstream scientists don't immediately think of dumping it if at all but they forever recheck. Galileo reportedly dropped things off the Leaning Tower of Pisa (no not water bombs although it would have also been useful). Centuries later an astronaut dropped a feather and a coin on the moon why? because you are always retesting in science to challenge theory. Not so with Evolution in testing its truth.
Here you have a theory which doesn't claim that one being was programmed to become another. So at least on the supermacro level we can't just say well all these scientists say it's so or this lifeform for sure at this level of Evolution came from this other one. No one says well now we will check again to see if the theory of Evolution is true. The strength of a theory is precisely that as Dawkins himself says in the clip, but in real life for Dawkins Evolution stands still. In the original theory of NeoDarwinism you have natural selection evolving constantly new life. To Gould if you have no isolation for a small group of individuals you can forget about Evolution. In the original theory of NeoDarwinism life stems from one lifeform. This is good for cladistics as an ideal assumption but now we have scientists seriously saying life may have come from various lifeforms and not necessarily from this planet. You even have horror of horrors those scientists who wonder if life did not arise several times on Earth. A further complication is that we see stars near on cosmological scales the beginning of time and who knows if we will discover planets with life around them. If life evolves through chance we had better adopt at least partially Darwin’s later view that chance in Natural Selection’s means chance from the standpoint of ignorance. Arguing that given enough time monkeys can produce the Encyclopedia Britannica by themselves randomly is easily proven false. Would you even if you did not learn how old the Earth is or when typewriters were made or when monkeys were made or anything else was made say the Encyclopedia Britannica was randomly produced by monkeys. Maybe our whole history then is falsely made up by those monkeys. This is a spooky issue. Its like why is it that each individual has total freedom as to whether to go to a store and yet enmasse if these disconnected people don't show up it is for a reason. The difference between randomness and order is mysterious. Another interesting thing is that it takes the brain longer to coordinate the whole command system of having an action done than the amount of time between deciding to do something and doing it. So before we decide to do something our brains already start the process of doing it. Yet we feel we have free will. If we don't have free will than how asks Stephen Hawking do we know if we have the correct theory of Everything? He answers that it would be an advantage of natural selection for us to know the correct theory. Well the theory of Evolution itself is a scientific theory so how would we be able to know we are not programmed to come up with it. Are we supposed to say if we live long enough that we already know that the Theory of Everything developed on star date 8954783423 has to be true because enough time has passed? No scientist including the great Stephen Hawking would stand for it. Also did you ever notice how some people are so good you know they wouldn't do something. Like picture Rav Moshe Feinstein as even an embezzler. Forget it. And yet we feel we have free will. What is Free Will. It is a nonscientific belief that we can transcend science and choose to do something. If we don't have free will as Rav Chasdai Crescas contended centuries ago how can we be blamed for anything? Maybe we no longer can say like Chasdai Crescas as we don't judge someone in halacha as being guilty if they did something because they are crazy. If we don't have free will why do we feel that we are initiating an action. As Isaac Bashevis Singer commented even those who say there's no free will make sure not to get themselves killed. What would it mean to not have free will? Would we feel anything or be possessed like a dybbuk possessing a character in one of Isaac Bashevis Singer's novels. I believe we have free will. I also believe that what it is far from simple and there are studies suggesting the Rambam felt the same.
Yisrael Asper (again)

Miri said...

Orthoprax-
"People who follow reason will change their views in accordance with it." not true. I personally know lots of people - intellectuals too, mind you- who say they believe in G-d, and even that they believe Judaism is true, but refuse to practice Orthodoxy for a number of reasons; most of them emotional. there are some people who do act strictly according to reason. most people act according to emotion. and if you believe one thing and do another, the belief doesn't mean very much anyway.

as to the Jews at Sinai - it's a good point. free will is a bit of a sticky issue...but I think you meant to say that we probably would have free will even if G-d's presence was a proven fact. I could see that actually. it would, however, make it a bit difficult to argue about evolution now wouldn't it?


"...when as a child I blissfully accepted the dogma without issue." then why were you longing for the days of a simpler sort of faith? sounds like you had it down pretty well.

"That's because you've never been a skeptic. You're still within the rubric of bliss that most skeptics call ignorance."

At this point in the conversation, I think I have reason to find this comment particularly offensive. it is also the crux of my issue with all the young Jewish intellectuals who like to think they're the first ones to come up with the concept of questioning G-d. you assume I have never been a skeptic bc I'm taking the opposing side of this argument. but you don't actually know anything of my belief or belief system. I will grant you that many religous people don't choose to think too deeply abt these issues. but as I've already stated on this blog, there are also many "atheists" who never really thought abt it either. the majority of human beings don't think. this includes the majority of any particular group, such as Orthodox Jews/Catholics/Muslims, etc.it also includes the majority of college students. it also includes the majority of middle-aged businessmen. my point was that just bc you haven't actually spoken
to any religous Jews who think doesn't mean they don't exist. it probably means that you talked to a few religous Jews, weren't impressed, and assumed you know what all religous Jews think bc you were cool enough to win an argument with someone who didn't know very much. my other point was that there are actually many Jews out there (I could name a few, but you probably don't know them)who have a lot of problems with the whole G-d thing but they stick with it bc intellectually honest people don't give up on a concept until they come to a conclusion - and if you're doing it right, there's never a very conclusive conclusion.

and finally; G-d crises are usually more PERCEPTUAL than anything else. ie, the way you see the world. this view of the world is affected party by logic, partly by emotion, partly by digestive processes. and a myriad of other things. you make things far too simplistic when you leave things only to reason and logic. bc to be perfectly honest my friend (we are trying to be honest, right?) people are not that easy.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"not true. I personally know lots of people - intellectuals too, mind you- who say they believe in G-d, and even that they believe Judaism is true, but refuse to practice Orthodoxy for a number of reasons; most of them emotional."

Then you know people that aren't following reason. I fully agree that such people exist. I, however, endeavor not to be one of them and I know of many other people who try to be as reasonable as possible and will change their minds when reason demands it of them.

"as to the Jews at Sinai - it's a good point. free will is a bit of a sticky issue...but I think you meant to say that we probably would have free will even if G-d's presence was a proven fact."

That was what I implied.

"it would, however, make it a bit difficult to argue about evolution now wouldn't it?"

I don't know what you mean.

"then why were you longing for the days of a simpler sort of faith? sounds like you had it down pretty well."

I don't understand what you're saying. I sometimes wish to go back to that childlike faith because it was so sure about things and fully confident and comfortable because I _knew_ I had the truth. Now things are harder and far less certain. But I see that faith as something I simply grew out of - that other people seem not to.

"I think I have reason to find this comment particularly offensive. it is also the crux of my issue with all the young Jewish intellectuals who like to think they're the first ones to come up with the concept of questioning G-d. you assume I have never been a skeptic bc I'm taking the opposing side of this argument."

I'm sorry if you were offended, but I really do believe you are largely ignorant of the firestorm that rages in intellectual circles regarding all the basic tenants of Orthodoxy. If I said "JEPD," would you know the reference? Do you know who Gilgamesh is? Are you familiar with the counterarguments given for the Kuzari?

Now I am sure you can look those up, but be honest with me please.

"just bc you haven't actually spoken to any religous Jews who think doesn't mean they don't exist"

No, I agree, there are Orthodox Jews who think. Most of them are just in denial or have come to their own conclusions that would be considered heresy by the larger populaton. Seriously, when Orthodox Jews try to justify belief in a global flood they might as well be trying to justify belief in a flat earth.

Maybe you didn't believe when I told you the first time. I have spoken to literally hundreds of Orthodox Jews on these topics - if not thousands. Really, I am no novice.

"you make things far too simplistic when you leave things only to reason and logic. bc to be perfectly honest my friend (we are trying to be honest, right?) people are not that easy"

By denying reason and logic as your primary goal keepers you are opening yourself up to believing all sorts of things that one has no reason to believe are true and are in likelihood false. What makes your emotionally-driven beliefs qualitatively different from the Hindu's or the Muslim's or the Mormon's?

Miri said...

as to people acting on reason and logic; you forget the intellectual baalei teshuva who were driven to Yiddeshkeit on the strenght of their intellectual honesty. people who grew up with these arguments, even scientists, and yet felt that logically speaking, religion was the most factually correct way to go. I think you're black-and-whiting it a bit more than is strictly accurate. there are stories on every side.

as to the diffculty with arguing evolution; what I meant to say was that if G-d's presence in the world were scientifically proven, it would put a different spin on the general discussion. personally, I don't think the two ideas are at all mutually exclusive. my point was just that the scientific community would have to alter their views a little bit. it wasn't a particularly good or really relevant point.

as to the "days of simpler faith" thing; I apologize, I misread the original comment. I thought you were speaking of a historical time period. in light of the fact that you were referring to yourself, actually I think most or all of what I said regarding that point was also irrelevant. sorry for the confusion.

as to the firestorms regarding basic Orthodoxy- I do not deny that I'm generally a tremendously ignorant person. I don't know what JEPD is(well, I did just look it up, but I didn't know before two minutes ago;) I do know who Gilgamesh was (and actually I think that rather supports the claim of the Orthodox as to the flood, at least in terms of such a flood having occurred - similar evnts recoreded in multiple documents of various cuultures etc.); I do not know the counterarguments to the Kuzari. I read through the Kuzari on my own, very superficially, last year, and I certaintly don't know it well enough to argue about it. there were however, a lot of bits of it that bothered me, and that I don't quite agree with.

"No, I agree, there are Orthodox Jews who think. Most of them are just in denial or have come to their own conclusions that would be considered heresy by the larger populaton." Here is a point that bothers me. why is is that you assume that since these people have come to conclusions other than your own they must be deluding themselves? again, I will admit my vast ignorance. it could well be that you have somehow attained some "scientific and empirically proven evidence" against the claims of the orthodox. but so far in my travels, I haven't encountered anyone who was able to convincingly convince me that they're standpoint was more logically or scientifically valid than mine. therefore, the fact that I believe in what a lot of other people happen to believe in means I haven't thought the thing through at all, or am deluding myself?

I never said I was "denying logic and reason as my goalkeepers." I'm not, and they are. I'm just being realistic about how much logic and reason affect perception vs. other factors, which is something I think a lot of people don't take into account when they try to figure out why exactly they believe what they believe. I never meant to say that my beliefs are emotionally-driven. I meant to say that I think the nature of belief is such that logic and reason don't create it as much as justify it. logic alone isn't always enough.

what makes you think that Hindus, Muslims, and Mormons are all necessarily emotionally-driven believers any more than you are? simply because you don't believe the same things?
what makes my beliefs qualitativley different from theirs is very simple: we don't believe in the same things.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me Orthoprax that you don't really have a good reason for being observant if you don't believe too. I wouldn't call you an observant Jew until you believe also. What is your attitude towards Catholicism do you want Catholics to be at least Orthoprax or how about a religion like the Moonies who as far as I know have not had their group becoming anyone's cultural heritage? Do you want them to preserve their practices? Your young and a time will come when you would have to reveal to a potential bride the truth about your religious beliefs. This isn't like telling her you didn't eat the last cookie in the jar when you really did. I have a feeling you observe externally because you have some emotional commitment that you are not examining. If you are looking for more flexibility in Orthodoxy by now there are plenty of leftwing opinions to choose from. They may not have a big following but it is there. As for the Kuzari it has been noted that he in saying that religion is not like some axiomatic system but stems from community experience is making a very modern statement (and being a breath of fresh air in the Middle Ages on this point) even if naturally he stated many ideas from the past.
Yisrael Asper (Again)

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"as to people acting on reason and logic; you forget the intellectual baalei teshuva who were driven to Yiddeshkeit on the strenght of their intellectual honesty"

I'll be honest with you. I don't believe such people exist except insofar as they were convinced without all the available data.

But, again, it is you who said that people don't form their beliefs based on reason or logic - so how can you say that some BTs base their beliefs on logic and reason?

"as to the firestorms regarding basic Orthodoxy- I do not deny that I'm generally a tremendously ignorant person."

Well, that's all I was saying.

"Here is a point that bothers me. why is is that you assume that since these people have come to conclusions other than your own they must be deluding themselves?"

I don't. I think that there are a variety of reasonable conclusions one can come to based on the data, but I also know there are some unreasonable conclusions. And, basically, the thesis of Orthodoxy is unreasonable.

"therefore, the fact that I believe in what a lot of other people happen to believe in means I haven't thought the thing through at all, or am deluding myself?"

No, I just think you're ignorant of the issues - and that as much you've already admitted to.

"what makes you think that Hindus, Muslims, and Mormons are all necessarily emotionally-driven believers any more than you are? simply because you don't believe the same things?"

I was generalizing, but yes, generally they are not basing their beliefs on the evidence.

"what makes my beliefs qualitativley different from theirs is very simple: we don't believe in the same things."

You miss the point. Can you justify your religious beliefs any better than they can?



Yisrael,

"It seems to me Orthoprax that you don't really have a good reason for being observant if you don't believe too. I wouldn't call you an observant Jew until you believe also."

Ok, that's your opinion. I disagree. And being that I think I know myself a little better than you do, I am going to defer to my own view.

"What is your attitude towards Catholicism do you want Catholics to be at least Orthoprax or how about a religion like the Moonies who as far as I know have not had their group becoming anyone's cultural heritage? Do you want them to preserve their practices?"

I honestly could care less. Why is that relevant? I'm not Catholic.

"Your young and a time will come when you would have to reveal to a potential bride the truth about your religious beliefs."

Really, you think? Whenever I am in a potentially serious relationship I have told the girl where I stand.

"I have a feeling you observe externally because you have some emotional commitment that you are not examining."

I do have emotional reasons for being observant. I agree completely. And I have examined them.

Yisrael Asper said...

"Really, you think? Whenever I am in a potentially serious relationship I have told the girl where I stand."

Good for you.

"I honestly could care less. Why is that relevant? I'm not Catholic."

You are last I read of the opinion Judaism's practices should be preserved. If you feel Catholicism's practices could drop for all you care then the question is why. What is so special about Judaism for you?

Orthoprax said...

Yisrael,

"What is so special about Judaism for you?"

I'm Jewish...

Miri said...

orthoprax,
I admitted to being an ignorant person, and I am. but mostly it's ignorance of the information, not the issues. the issues mostly come up in all sorts of places. to explain; it's not that I was unaware that there are counterarguments to the Kuzari, I simply have never been involved in such an argument bc I don't know the book well enough. I didn't catch the JEPD reference, but when I looked it up, found that I was familiar with the basic concepts and even a few of the details of it's particular brand of bible criticisms. I never found Gilgamesh, nor the Code of Hammurabi to be particularly convincing of anything. I could go on, but I think it's sort of useless. at this point in the argument, there is clearly nothing else left but to agree to disagree, since we were never really arguing based on the same premises anyway.
by the way, you might find this post interesting. http://tobiesrandomrants.blogspot.com

Orthoprax said...

If you don't know the information then you can't really know the issues. Maybe you "know of" the issues, but that's hardly the same thing.

Yisrael Asper said...

>Yisrael,

>"What is so special about Judaism >for you?"

>I'm Jewish

I know but what is the reason you feel Judaism's practices should be preserved?

Orthoprax said...

Yisrael,

It's my culture. I find value in it and wish to see it continued.

Yisrael Asper said...

Now we are getting somewhere. What do you find of value in it?

Orthoprax said...

Its Jewishness.

Yisrael Asper said...

And how do you tell your future children that they should pass down only practice unless by now you believe in more. I'm not sure what exactly you believe since we last wrote like I don't know a year ago.

Orthoprax said...

Yisrael,

"And how do you tell your future children that they should pass down only practice"

Hum? You don't tell children that, you show them by being a role model. If you invest in children a love for Judaism, an appreciation for their heritage and the enjoyment of an observant life then they will be observant.

Yisrael Asper said...

Observance is only a part of their heritage. It will have the same track record for most people as what your parents had with you if you only give them a part of that. It’s really too early to say what you will be like twenty years from now. Your thought processes really have just been starting. If your anything like me you will have evolved plenty in about twenty years. If you give people only a part of their heritage they will feel free to discard as they wish. If someone observes and believes then they have nothing to say to their children to get them to continue their heritage if they have instilled in them as much love for it as it seems your parents instilled in you when it came to practice. I see a me in you about twenty years ago only I saw the package as a whole. Perhaps in the end all that really matters is that we get our children to feel so much love for their heritage that they can’t change even if they can’t explain why. Maybe what our children need is lots of love. An example is best when that is shown. Ultimately how long is life? It seems the love we feel for those who have shown us so much love is what really counts. I’ll tell you something. People complain about the Chareidim but the feelings expressed amongst them are profound ones whether it all matches up with rational thought or not. They provide a lesson. Ultimately how good is religion if all we have is trying to reconcile it with other things? Of course we have to try to do that. But we mustn’t lose site of the fact that religion in and of itself serves a purpose. Dawkins cold bravado isn’t impressive to me. One heartfelt prayer is. If religion is used to bring out the noblest impulses in man then that is true religion. Traditionally that really is the core of Judaism. I may be getting emotional here. There are personal reasons for that. I don’t have existential issues and am thank G-d very well but time for those you love can swing hard forward. G-d willing twenty years from now you will have an easier life.