Sunday, July 10, 2011

Interesting Posts and Articles #317

  1. If you look at Blogger in Draft, you can see the brand new interface. It is a bit much, but on the other hand, it is nice to have a lot more screen real estate.
  2. Life In Israel on buying tefillin from a sofer that taxes.
  3. At PloS Biology, The Mismeasure of Science: Stephen Jay Gould versus Samuel George Morton on Skulls and Bias. Their abstract reads:
    Stephen Jay Gould, the prominent evolutionary biologist and science historian, argued that “unconscious manipulation of data may be a scientific norm” because “scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth” [1], a view now popular in social studies of science [2][4]. In support of his argument Gould presented the case of Samuel George Morton, a 19th-century physician and physical anthropologist famous for his measurements of human skulls. Morton was considered the objectivist of his era, but Gould reanalyzed Morton's data and in his prize-winning book The Mismeasure of Man [5] argued that Morton skewed his data to fit his preconceptions about human variation. Morton is now viewed as a canonical example of scientific misconduct. But did Morton really fudge his data? Are studies of human variation inevitably biased, as per Gould, or are objective accounts attainable, as Morton attempted? We investigated these questions by remeasuring Morton's skulls and reexamining both Morton's and Gould's analyses. Our results resolve this historical controversy, demonstrating that Morton did not manipulate data to support his preconceptions, contra Gould. In fact, the Morton case provides an example of how the scientific method can shield results from cultural biases.
    This made the news. And it sparked this Cross-Currents post by Rabbi Avi Shafran: Science, Blinded. An excerpt:
    But, as more traditional Jewish texts explain, only someone who has overcome the preconceptions, desires and imperfections of character to which we all play host can truly perceive the world with clarity. The rest of us—even scientists—are subject to misjudgments, hampered as we are by our prejudices.
    Nowhere in science, perhaps, does bias so blind as with regard to evolution.
    Rabbi Natan Slifkin responded in a post on his own blog, in a post called Religion, Blinded: An excerpt:
    If people say that they couldn't care less about what scientists say, and all that matters to them is faith, that's fine with me. Even if they've convinced themselves that the scientific evidence disproves evolution, I don't care. If that's what they think, then, gezunteheit, live and be well.

    But when you have an articulate, worldly spokesperson for the charedi community like Rabbi Shafran, and he posts an article on the Internet entitled "Science, Blinded," claiming that those who subscribe to evolution do so out of religious faith, whereas tzaddikim reject it out of objectivity... well, that calls for a response. First of all, it's a public attack on those of us who do accept evolution. Second, it's a chillul Hashem for an article with such nonsense to appear in public, which can be partially rectified by a demonstration that not all Orthodox Jews agree. Third, when articles like this come out, I receive all kinds of emails from people screaming in anguish, and my response appears to be therapeutic for them.
    as well as another post or two on the subject of his own evolved view of evolution. Rabbi Shafran's posts on Cross-Currents do not allow comments, but Rabbi Yaakov Mencken published his own response to Rabbi Slifkin's posts over there: Double-Blind Science and the Church of Agnosticism. An excerpt:

    As Rabbi Slifkin and I have discussed previously, I was educated, like anyone outside parochial schools, to believe that Evolution was proven fact, and, as Rabbi Slifkin has pointed out, this belief is not necessarily contradictory to belief in Torah. [I even wrote a paper on the unscientific nature of so-called "Scientific Creationism," a position of mine which has not changed.] Once my biases were removed, however, I gradually rejected evolution as an unproven and unlikely conjecture.
    So I do not understand how he can write that “those who oppose evolution inevitably subscribe to a religious worldview in which evolution is theologically problematic at best and usually entirely unacceptable.” To the religious person, it would really make no difference at all if the evidence for Evolution was absolute and overwhelming — because the Medrash says that everything looks as if it were created naturally. Adam was physically a 20-year-old at the moment of his “birth.” In some ways, the infinitesimal probabilities for Evolution are at least as problematic as if they added up. [Parts of this are quoted from my comments to the aforementioned post, which probably should have been converted to a Cross-Currents post long ago.]
    And Rabbi Slifkin responds over here, in Turning Things On Their Head. And DovBear pipes in The Shafran - Slifkin - Mencken blog war.
  4. On HebrewBooks, from the Eida Chareidis, כשרות הדגים. Also, Tiferes Naftali, by R' Naftali Henig. I turned it to parshas Balak.
  5. Na Nach is apparently the name of Mashiach. Heh:
  6. God plays dice.
  7. Gay Girl In Damascus blogger turns out to be a 40 year old straight man living in Scotland, the the co-director of Atlanta Palestine Solidarity. And the one who outed him, purportedly another lesbian blogger, also turns out to be a man.
  8. At Hirhurim, Astrology for Rationalists.
  9. Menachem Mendel has a recording of Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein in favor of a girl cutting herself for the sake of tznius. Perhaps someone wants to produce a transcript? He can bring all the proofs from gemaras he wants. He is still not correct. And this is part of the sickness of tznius extremism we are suffering from today.
    While I am at it, I'll echo someone's comments, as they express my own sentiments as well:
    One of the things I noticed that happened vis-a-vis the R. Zilberstein case (at least with a couple of folks I know in the online world) is that when the story broke, their immediate reaction was that such an irrational comment must be false, and it simply was another case of the secular media making the Orthodox world look bad.  Then, when the story turned out to be proven authentic, these same folks turned around and looked for ways to defend R. Zilberstein's comments.
    Where 'defending' means suddenly proclaiming that he is absolutely right, and knows about the various gemaras and metzius. (Rav Zilberstein is the medical halacha posek, BTW, who confirmed to Rav Kanievsky that Jews have a different number of teeth than gentiles, on the basis of an urban legend of an anti-Semitic dentist in the US who took care to count his patients' teeth.)
  10. At Shir Shel Yom, Me and My Daughters Five:

  11. At Cross-Currents, the Wisdom of a Classic Shul Rov. A must read about handling a difficult blackmail / get case.
  12. At Frume Sarah, last week's Haveil Havalim.
  13. Here on parshablog, Bnei Yisaschar on the authorship of Targum Yonasan. And whether Nir Ben Artzi predicted nuclear woes. And rabbanim against Nir Ben Artzi.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

here we are also seeing the sickness of materialism by the way. why cannot she go clean someone's house for 40 shekel an hour? in one day she could make enough to buy two long skirts: one shabbat and one regular.
what am i missing? a little financial independence goes a long way (or if you insist on an unhealthy dependence, why does the rabbi not give her some cash? why depend on unhappy parents?)
eliyahu's sister


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