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When Judaism Meets Science

 

“a rare masterpiece”
– Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, HUC

“careful research, passionate analysis, and good sense”
– Rabbi David Teutsch, RRC

“clear, engaging”
– Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman, Sinai and Synapses

“a tremendous tome”
– Rabbi Wayne Dosick, SpiritTalk Live!

“an absolutely fascinating book”
– Rabbi Richard Address, Jewish Sacred Aging

“scholarly, judicious, and fair–minded . . . and very ‘readable’”
– Ronald W. Pies, MD

“a fresh way to explore Jewish topics . . . useful in teaching adults”
– Rabbi Gail Shuster–Bouskila

“A must read! . . . careful thought and such literary excellence”
– Rabbi Jack Riemer

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Welcome!

Welcome to a discussion about Judaism and science, about fact, fiction, and faith. Now in its eighth year, this site has already explored a wide range of issues, from archeology to zygotes and from adam (mankind) to t’filah (prayer). And we have done so unsponsored and unencumbered by any particular denomination.

Along the way, we have encountered some interesting ideas, met some fascinating people and even gained some new perspectives. And our journey has really just begun. All who are interested in a thoughtful, respectful and constructive dialogue are invited to participate.

Exploring Einstein and Kaplan, God and Science

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 @ 04:01 PM
posted by Roger Price

Influenced by the writings of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood is a trans-denominational organization which seeks to strengthen “each of the existing denominational movements” and have a positive effect “on the lives of individual Jews regardless of their levels of observance, or even, within limits, their theologies.” Towards that end, it hosts webinars which explore many aspects of the Jewish civilization, including the relationship of Judaism and science.

In January, 2022, the Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood invited Rabbi Michael M. Cohen and Roger L. Price, authors respectively of Einstein’s Rabbi and When Judaism Meets Science to discuss their books, the thoughts of Albert Einstein and Mordecai Kaplan, and other current issues involving science and Judaism. The entire program, which runs almost two hours, as well as biographical information about the authors and the chatroom log, can be found under Webinars on the main page of the Kaplan Center.

Enjoy!

When Jews Argue in the Supreme Court About Abortion

Monday, November 29, 2021 @ 02:11 PM
posted by Roger Price
United States Supreme Court
(Credit: supremecourt.gov)

That Jews have disparate viewpoints on abortion is not news, but the argument has mostly been maintained and contained within the tribe. Every once in a while, though, it erupts into the public square, and the current consideration by the Supreme Court of the United States of the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Health, known as the Mississippi abortion case, is one of those times. What are Jews saying, and why?

The Context.

The extent to which abortion – the termination of the life of an embryo or fetus – occurs is not documented precisely in the United States. Since 1969, however, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has collected data on legally induced abortions from most, but not all, states. Its findings for 2018 disclose that 619,591 legally induced abortions were reported to it. Of these, 92.2% were performed during or before the 13th week of gestation. Another 6.9% were reported between weeks 14 and 20. Less than 1% were reported in or after week 21.

The Case.

The case before the United States Supreme Court arises from the enactment by the State of Mississippi in 2018 of the state’s Gestational Age Act (the “Act”) which prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, with exceptions for, and only for, medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality. Because the ban prohibits abortions prior to the normal time for fetal viability (at about 22-24 weeks of pregnancy), the Act runs afoul of the Supreme Court’s previous holdings in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 883 (1992). As Mississippi acknowledges, the very purpose of the Act is to challenge Roe, Casey, and their progeny. To understand the legal issues in the case, then, we need to look first at the primary precedents.

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When Judaism Meets Global Warming (Part 4/4)

Thursday, July 22, 2021 @ 08:07 PM
posted by Roger Price
Earth, from Space
Image Credit: NASA

PART IV ––WHAT JUDAISM CAN AND CANNOT SAY CREDIBLY AND PRODUCTIVELY ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING.

     Global warming, which could lead to climate change, is a complex phenomenon, as we discovered in the first three parts of this essay, previously published here. It is also a ubiquitous subject today, so it is easy to forget that it did not emerge into public consciousness as a matter to be treated seriously until the 1970s. The Jewish community was quick to understand the potential gravity of the issue, and, over the last forty years or so, through familiar denominational outlets and more recently by way of independent entities, the community has not hesitated to speak out. It has met global warming with concern and conferences. Whether the resultant rhetoric has accomplished anything or even addressed sufficiently the difficult challenge global warming presents to Judaism is another matter.

     The classic approach.

     The classic Jewish approach to seeking wisdom is to look first to Judaism’s foundational text, the Torah, understood literally as a book (or as books) of instruction. Long ago, and speaking of the Torah, Ben Bag Bag, an early rabbinic sage, described the premise: Turn it and turn it again, he reportedly said, for all is in it. (See Sayings of the Fathers 5:22.) But neither the Torah nor Judaism’s other foundational text, the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, is a science book, much less a technology book, and its authors lacked the knowledge, the tools, and the perspective to understand something as complex as global warming.

To be sure, by the time the ancient Israelites and Judahites began to record their legends and laws, they, like others, were well aware of the seasonal patterns that then prevailed. But there is no evidence that they knew, for example, that the Earth orbited the Sun in an elliptical path, nor did they likely know that the Earth tilted in its axis. And, surely, they did not know about how the Earth’s atmosphere allowed solar energy to hit the planet’s surface or to trap some of that energy that might otherwise radiate away. Had they any inkling that adding carbon to the atmosphere could potentially and adversely alter temperatures on land, in the seas, and in the sky, would they have insisted on three national pilgrimage festivals and more conventional rituals that called for the sacrificial burning of animals? (See, e.g., Ex. 23:14–17, 34:18-23.) We can speculate, but the truth seems to be that at least early on they conceived of an anthropomorphic god who took pleasure in the aroma of the animal sacrifice (Num. 15:3), and mitigating carbon infusion into the atmosphere was not an issue. 

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