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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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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Jews, Genes and Genetics: A Look at Family, Haplotypes and Peoplehood

Monday, May 28, 2012 @ 10:05 PM
posted by Roger Price

In the United States today, the freest and richest nation on the planet, a country characterized by opportunity and mobility, the reality is that most Jews are Jews, if at all, by choice. For some, that choice is relatively easy, a coincidence of birth, culture and acceptance. For others, the situation is more complicated, involving perhaps disaffection with the faith or circumstances into which one was born and raised or, conversely, an attraction to a set of beliefs or patterns of behavior newly encountered.

Regardless of one’s position, in the open and fluid society that is America, most adults are not forced to be Jewish, i.e., to engage in conduct commonly understood to be specifically Jewish, such as attending shul, keeping kosher, studying sacred texts or simply identifying as a Jew. Nor are they forced to believe in a particular collection of ideas or ideals, including whether God exists, or, if they think that God does, what attributes or aspects that God may or may not have. Certainly strong social pressures can operate on an individual to motivate him or her to behave or believe one way or another, but most individuals still retain the ability to choose whether to be Jewish.

There is, however, one matter that is not open to choice, much less dispute or revision, and that is one’s genetic structure. And here, as elsewhere, advances in science in the relatively recent past have allowed us to investigate, to probe, to attempt to provide science based perspectives, if not answers, to the most basic questions: “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?”.    read more

Merneptah Stele – Egyptian Museum, Cairo

Credit: Wikipedia

The Hebrew Bible, thanks in large part to the often literal translation of it in the King James Version, is a source of scores of English idiomatic expressions. We may not know much about biology and history, but we do know, for instance, that a “leopard cannot change its spots” and that there is “nothing new under the Sun.” (See Jer. 13:23; Eccles. 1:9.)

Someday, no doubt, if it hasn’t already, Google will track the frequency with which we use these expressions and determine the rank order of their popularity. Surely high on the list will be “written in stone.” The phrase comes from the Book of Exodus where we are told that Moses ascended Mt. Sinai and received from God two stone tablets which were engraved by God with God’s teachings and commandments. The initial set of tablets was then smashed by Moses when he saw that the Israelites had fashioned an idol, a golden calf, when he was away up the mountain. God then met with Moses a second time, resulting in the production of a second set of stone tablets with the laws. (See Ex.24:12; 31:18; 32:15-19; 34:4; 34:28.)

From these references comes the notion that something written in stone is fixed for all time, immutable. The writing is a statement from and by authority, possibly even sacred, but certainly to be followed without modification.  Conversely, something “not written in stone” is a statement of lesser seriousness, one subject to challenge and change. read more

Science and Judaism: Biblical Numbers, Mathematics and Attributed Patriarchal Ages

Sunday, January 22, 2012 @ 01:01 PM
posted by Roger Price

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit: Roger Price

The Hebrew Bible is filled with numbers. There are different kinds of numbers — cardinals and ordinals, integers and fractions, even primes. And they are everywhere in the Torah text.

There are numbers for days. (See, e.g., Gen. 1:5, 8, 13.)

There are numbers for life spans. (See, e.g., Gen. 5:5, 8, 11.)

There are numbers for populations, i.e., census numbers.  (See, e.g., Ex. 1:5, 12:37; Num. 1:46, 2:32.)

There are numbers for the measurement of quantities. (See, e.g., Ex. 16:22, 36, 29:40.)

And for sizes. (See, e.g., Gen. 6:15.)

There are numbers for the duration of events. (See, e.g., Ex. 12:40, 24:18.)

There are numbers for a host of seemingly mundane things, such as the number of visitors and the number of palm trees. (See, e.g., Gen. 18:2; Ex. 15:27.) read more

Science and Judaism: WWMD? What Would Maimonides Do?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 @ 08:12 AM
posted by Roger Price

Earthrise as seen from Apollo 8

Credit: NASA AS8-14-2383

 

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, Maimonides, also known by the acronym Rambam, lived  just over eight hundred years ago (1138-1204 CE). He never saw the planet Earth as astronaut William Anders did on December 24, 1968 when module pilot Anders  took the now iconic photograph above while flying over the lunar surface during the first manned orbit of the Moon. We do not know if Maimonides even imagined such a sight.

 

Credit: NASA/JPL P41508

The picture above shows Earth with the Moon in the background. This scene was captured by the Galileo Orbiter on December 16, 1992 at a distance of almost four million miles from our home planet. Maimonides never had the opportunity to see Earth and Moon from this perspective either.

 

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download<br /><br /><br /><br />
 the highest resolution version available.

Credit:  NASA, The Hubble Heritage Team and A. Riess (STSci). PRC2003-24.

Living some four hundred years before Nicolaus Copernicus considered the nature of the solar system and Galileo Galilei fashioned his first telescope, Maimonides did not realize that the Earth circled the Sun, and not the other way around as was commonly understood in his day. Nor could he have known that the Sun was but one medium sized star in a rather unremarkable galaxy known as the Milky Way which spans 100,000 light years and is similar in size and shape to the spiral galaxy NGC 3370 shown above in a picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Similarly, he would not have known either that our galaxy consisted of a few hundred billion stars, give or take, or that the Milky Way was but one of perhaps a hundred billion galaxies, give or take, in the visible universe. See Tyson and Goldsmith, Origins (W.W. Norton, 2005), at 27, 150. read more

Science and Judaism: The Strange Claim of Dr. Schroeder (Part III)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 @ 08:11 PM
posted by Roger Price

Fernando Botero – Adam and Eve

In two prior posts, we have reviewed Dr. Gerald Schroeder’s strange claim in The Science of God (“TSOG”) (Rev. Ed. 2009) that billions of years of cosmic evolution and six biblical days of creation actually occurred simultaneously. With his self-imposed standard of not bending the Bible to science or science to the Bible in mind, we have analyzed how objective Schroeder actually was with respect to the Bible and science. In both instances, we have found Schroeder’s work sorely lacking. He has failed to meet his own standard and other more objective ones as well. read more

Science and Judaism: The Strange Claim of Dr. Schroeder (Part II)

Monday, October 31, 2011 @ 10:10 PM
posted by Roger Price

In a prior post (10/18/11), we started to look at Dr. Gerald Schroeder’s argument in The Science of God (“TSOG”)(rev. ed. 2009) that the six biblical days of creation and the billions of years of the evolution of the universe as measured by scientists actually occurred over the same time period. Our focus was on Schroeder’s interpretation of certain biblical passages that he believes show that time is treated differently before and after the creation of Adam. (See, e.g., TSOG, at 52, 54.)

Now we are going to address that part of Schroeder’s argument that rests of physics and mathematics. In the concluding post of this series, we will review the conclusion of Schroeder’s conflation argument. read more

Science and Judaism: The Strange Claim of Dr. Schroeder (Part I)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 @ 10:10 AM
posted by Roger Price

          The literal accuracy of the biblical description of the origin of the cosmos and of life itself has been the subject of controversy and reinterpretation for millennia. Even before recent scientific discoveries made the story of a six-day creation simply untenable as fact, many Jewish scholars, among others, readily acknowledged that the opening chapters of the Bible do not reflect a true portrayal of historic creation. (See, Post 10/11/11.)

           Today that view has achieved a sort of consensus. With respect to B’reishit (Genesis), the Reform movement’s latest commentary asserts that the Bible “has a great deal to tell about God’s relationship to the world and about human beings and their destiny,” but concedes that the opening chapters are “unscientific, antiquated myths” that may be approached “in the same manner as one approaches poetry.” (Plaut, The Torah, rev. ed. (2005), at 6.) Etz Hayim, the Torah commentary published by the Conservative movement (2001) holds similarly: “The opening chapters of Genesis are not a scientific account of the origins of the universe. The Torah is a book of morality, not cosmology.” (At 3, emphasis supplied.) The Chumash (The Stone Edition)(1993), published as part of the more traditional Art Scroll series, accepts Rashi’s understanding that Torah starts with Creation in order to establish God’s supremacy, but acknowledges that “the Torah is not a history book . . . .” [All year citations are CE, unless otherwise noted.] read more

Science and Judaism: Would That You Were Right, Rabbi Mitelman

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 @ 10:10 AM
posted by Roger Price

   Shortly before this blog was launched several months ago, Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman of Beth El Synagogue in Northern Westchester, New York wrote an article for Huffington Post titled Why Judaism Embraces Science. See,  www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-geoffrey-a-mitelman/why/can-judaism-embrace-s_b_880003.html.  There Mitelman presented three “especially significant” reasons for his thesis.

   At the outset, I recognize that Mitelman was writing a brief essay and not an academic paper, let alone an expansive book. And I also recognize that his audience was whoever was reading or may read the HuffPost blog and not a dedicated group of adult learners. Nevertheless, the three bases for Mitelman’s post, even if assumed to be correct, do not compel the conclusion for which they are mustered and they raise more questions than Mitelman answered in his piece.  read more

Have Some Lost Their Yiddishe Kups?

Thursday, September 22, 2011 @ 02:09 PM
posted by Roger Price

JPAC Anti-Evolution Exhibit 9-20-11

 

   The picture above first appeared yesterday, to my knowledge, on www.failedmessiah.com. Apparently, the sponsoring group, whose members I suspect do not read this blog, also issued a public relations piece, which follows replete with all original typos: read more

Sportin’ Life Was Right, But What About That Tune

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 @ 09:07 AM
posted by Roger Price

George Gershwin

When Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout reviews a show, theater goers should pay attention.  And when the review is about a show that is mounted as rarely as is Porgy and Bess, special attention is in order. See, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304066504576343503771181980.html So it was that I attended the Court Theatre production of Porgy, the last stage work of George and Ira Gershwin.
read more