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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 ‘biology’

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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Biology and Genesis: Are they compatible or irreconcilable?

Friday, February 8, 2019 @ 11:02 AM
posted by David Haymer

Credit: Malka Rappaport

Introduction

Biology is the scientific study of life, and Genesis is the biblical story of life. Both address matters ranging from the origin of life to how we find life today, and both contain lessons that are important for our continued existence. And despite the fact that differences of interpretation of Genesis and the Bible in general have been the source of much discussion about perceived conflicts between religious and scientific ideas, perhaps these perspectives need not be considered so divergent.

Genesis is the first book of the Hebrew Bible, and most Jews accept the idea that it contains metaphors and should not be intended to serve as a substitute or alternative for valid scientific textbooks. However, it is also true that close reading of these stories can reveal perspectives and themes in common with many contemporary issues of scientific interest and importance. For example, the field of biology is now reaching an unprecedented peak of experimental power. We can now change our own biology in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. This is not to say that we should not move ahead, but we need to do so carefully. Because of this unprecedented power, though, all biologists today would be well served to incorporate ethical and moral considerations into their work to consider what should be done, not just what can be done. The stories in Genesis can help here because they directly address many biological issues of current interest, and they may provide valuable philosophical and ethical perspectives. read more

Free Will vs. Deterministic Cause and Effect

Thursday, March 19, 2015 @ 11:03 AM
posted by Rabbi Allen S. Maller

For over 3,000 years philosophers and religious thinkers have argued about free will. Some have argued that everything has a material cause that determines all material effects including emotions like fear, love and happiness. Others have argued that there are also subjective mental states like belief, morality and self-identity that influence individual’s reactions to an objective material stimulus.

Now it seems that science has discovered that even worms have free will. If offered a delicious smell, for example, a roundworm will usually stop its wandering to investigate the source, but sometimes it won’t. Just as with humans, the same stimulus does not always provoke the same response, even from the same individual.

New research at Rockefeller University, published online in Cell, offers a new neurological explanation for this variability, derived by studying a simple three-cell network within the roundworm brain. “We found that the collective state of the three neurons at the exact moment an odor arrives determines the likelihood that the worm will move toward the smell. So, in essence, what the worm is thinking about at the time determines how it responds,” says study author Cori Bargmann. “It goes to show that nervous systems aren’t passively waiting for signals from outside, they have their own internal patterns of activity that are as important as any external signal when it comes to generating a behavior.” read more