Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #205

  1. I didn't yet note this week's Haveil Havalim, at West Bank Mama.

  2. Divrei Chaim gives some attention to Not Brisker Yeshivish, and posts again about how one must follow consensus and not pick and choose sources and based on what most appeals to you, in terms of hashkafa. I don't think it necessarily even applies so far as halacha, and at any rate, this is not a matter of choosing people based on what you want, but choosing truth. There is no pesak in reality. I elaborate, and argue, in the comment section at Divrei Chaim as well as in this parshablog post, which considers whether we must accept the ridiculous, either in halacha or hashkafa.

  3. At Rationalist Judaism, Rabbi Slifkin continues his review and critique of Chaim BeEmunasam. In part eleven, he discusses how the book is selective in its citation of authorities, while purporting to give the only authentic approach. And in part twelve, how the sefer puts the pnimiyus approach of Maharal and others as the only authentic approach, while in fact many Rishonim and Acharonim argued, either having Chazal making an error, or else Chazal being right but meaning their words literally and physically, in our realm.

  4. Another argument against evolution based on irreducible complexity shot down:

    Intricate cellular components are often cited as evidence of intelligent design. They couldn’t have evolved, I.D. proponents say, because they can’t be broken down into smaller, simpler functional parts. They are irreducibly complex, so they must have been intentionally designed, as is, by an intelligent entity.

    But new research comparing mitochondria, which provide energy to animal cells, with their bacterial relatives, shows that the necessary pieces for one particular cellular machine — exactly the sort of structure that’s supposed to prove intelligent design — were lying around long ago. It was simply a matter of time before they came together into a more complex entity.

    It reminds me of the argument about "vestigial organs" on the other side; many things may just be labelled vestigial organs because science had not yet discovered the purpose of it, such as the spleen.

  5. Orthonomics and WolfishMusings note an "interesting" YNet article, also discussed at the Yeshiva World coffee room. A girls school is offering a scholarship in exchange for a promise that when the girl becomes a kallah, she not wear makeup on her wedding day. Something which may well be against a gemara. Now, some people are natural beauties and actually do not need makeup, some are not so much so and can use the extra help, and it is good and meritorious.
    Rabbi Ishmael wept and said, "The daughters of Israel are really beautiful, but it is poverty that makes them look ugly."
    And he would help them become pretty. And there are many other such sources. I understand somewhat when girls are in school. They are not dating, and the superficiality of it and the idea of making oneself look pretty, possibly for boys, may be deemed inappropriate -- at that stage in their lives. Unfortunately, some mechanchim are under the impression that this should be the conduct even after they leave school, in entirely different circumstances.

    On the other hand, there is a clear basis from Chumash for a bride not wearing makeup on her wedding day. After all, we see a marriage in the beginning of last week's parsha:

    יא וְרָאִיתָ, בַּשִּׁבְיָה, אֵשֶׁת, יְפַת-תֹּאַר; וְחָשַׁקְתָּ בָהּ, וְלָקַחְתָּ לְךָ לְאִשָּׁה.11 and seest among the captives a woman of goodly form, and thou hast a desire unto her, and wouldest take her to thee to wife;
    יב וַהֲבֵאתָהּ, אֶל-תּוֹךְ בֵּיתֶךָ; וְגִלְּחָה, אֶת-רֹאשָׁהּ, וְעָשְׂתָה, אֶת-צִפָּרְנֶיהָ.12 then thou shalt bring her home to thy house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;
    יג וְהֵסִירָה אֶת-שִׂמְלַת שִׁבְיָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ, וְיָשְׁבָה בְּבֵיתֶךָ, וּבָכְתָה אֶת-אָבִיהָ וְאֶת-אִמָּהּ, יֶרַח יָמִים; וְאַחַר כֵּן תָּבוֹא אֵלֶיהָ, וּבְעַלְתָּהּ, וְהָיְתָה לְךָ, לְאִשָּׁה.13 and she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thy house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month; and after that thou mayest go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.

    Thus, while she might be pretty before, it is a mitvah to make her look ugly before her wedding day. They probably just extrapolated from the Eshes Yefas Toar to the general case...

  6. Emes veEmunah on martyrdom, Meah Shearim style.

  7. Geulah Perspectives and Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky are hoping for moshiach's arrival this coming Sunday, based on a prediction by R' Elchanan Wasserman. May it be so; but messianic prediction by famous rabbinic figures are a dime a dozen. I wouldn't put too much stock in any particular one.

  8. Prepare the parsha by using my Ki Savo sources.

  9. At the Yeshiva World, Rabbi Weiss comes out against violence at the protests. But still for protests. I don't think that such is truly possible, in the current climate. My rebbe in Israel told me that a midwife is called a chachma because she is roeh et hanolad. Meanwhile, "misguided youths" attack an Arab taxi driver in Geulah.

  10. Oh! Nuts is having a Rosh Hashanah giveaway. You can enter by dropping a comment at this parshablog post, as well as in two other ways. See there.


ZB said...

"Thus, while she might be pretty before, it is a mitvah to make her look ugly before her wedding day. They probably just extrapolated from the Eshes Yefas Toar to the general case..."

Josh, I think this is the first time your blog has actually made me laugh :-)

Yasher Koach

Orthonomics said...

That is one heck of an extrapolation! Who knew, a seminary made up of war captives.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

I am not so sure that the "refutation" of the irreducible complexity concept is so compelling. The I.D. people maintain that the final, complex system is irreducible in the sense that multiple factors have to conspire simultaneously to effectuate its function and that it cannot be seen as having developed in a gradual piecemeal way. This doesn't preclude the possibility, as far as I understand, that that the building blocks might exist in some other form outside the system in question.

I find both sides of the evolution debate straining my credulity in their own ways and happily touting only the evidence that supports their respective cases while ignoring counterpoints and/or deliberately misunderstanding or glossing over the nuances of counterarguments.

Michael said...

I agree with R. Maroof,

These new evolutionist evidences of late are rather unconvincing, almost as bad as the young earth creationists. They're over doing it.

Michael said...

Though I don't think intelligent design can be called science.

joshwaxman said...

personally, i don't see this as proof of evolution, but it does seem to be somewhat good disproof of an argument against.

as you write, "The I.D. people maintain that the final, complex system is irreducible in the sense that multiple factors have to conspire simultaneously."

the reason for this is that there is no purpose to the intermediate stages or subcomponents, and so natural selection would not encourage the preservation of these useless intermediate stages. but sometimes, these intermediate stages can be shown to exist, or else that they *could* have existed, albeit serving an entirely different function. an example of intermediate stages or subcomponents serving entirely different purposes is the flagellum of bacteria. ID folks said it was irreducibly complex, but theorists showed how steps towards this final complicated mechanism actually could, in potential, have served a different function; and that therefore, the mechanisms of natural selection would work to preserve it. and then, at a later stage, these features change more, or different existing subcomponents suddenly work better together.

the "problem" with ID is that they raise some question or difficulty, then throw up their hands and say "it must have been God!" but this might simply be due to a paucity of imagination or our intellect or knowledge, rather than a real insurmountable problem.

and this i think is the same motivating factor for so-called vestigial organs.


Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Josh, I agree with your point, it just strikes me that the suggestion of evolutionists is almost more unbelievable than that of the I.D. people...all of the subcomponents just happened to be there for other reasons and - lo and behold - they formed an irreducibly complex system that performs a totally different function highly effectively...

Not saying this argument is a disproof, just that I am very wary of the "evidence" procured by both sides of the debate.


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