Thursday, September 02, 2010

Modern Psychology, Gedolim, and Ben Sorer Umoreh

From a derasha from Rav Moshe Shternbuch, written down by Rabbi Travis, and posted at the Daas Torah blog.

Here is the page in full. But is this claim about what Modern-day psychology proposes indeed true?

Consider the following, from an Intro to Psychology textbook:

It would seem, then, that in describing these three parenting styles, "modern-day psychology" does not promote the parenting style of "overly permissive parents". Indeed, their conclusion seems to be more or less the same as that of Rav Moshe Shternbuch, that it produces dependent, immature children who misbehave frequently. Instead, it seems more like they are promoting an "authoritative parenting style" as effective parenting.

But I suppose if he wants to attack some position, he might as well attribute it to modern psychology, because he has a definite anti-science bent.

Assuming this is an accurate summary of his derasha, this is not the first time Rav Sternbuch has attacked modern science while getting some all-important detail wrong. In the past, he attacked Darwinian evolution because it is progressionist -- that species were developing in a way of progress, becoming "better" each time. That, Rav Sternbuch felt, was contrary to the teachings of the Torah that previous generations were greater than ours, which he would extend to the physical realm as well, and prior to the creation of man. (Really? The animals, created before Adam, were on a higher level?) But this is an attack on Lamarck, who was a progressionist. Darwinian evolution, and especially modern evolution is decidedly non-progressionist.

Should we really take criticism of science from those who treat it as heresy and therefore do not take the time and effort to truly understand it?


Hillel said...

It's hardly fair to fault Rav Sternbuch for failing to accurately represent the positions of psychology. To do so, he would first have to study the positions of psychology, which would be asur. And bitul toireh.

Alternatively, as a godol, we must assume that he accurately represents what psychology believes, and the psychology textbook is wrong, and perhaps even a malicious attempt to tear precious Jews away from the emunas chachomim which have sustained us for lo these many millenia.


joshwaxman said...

true, true.

Yeshivish said...

Josh waxman, What do you mean when yo say that Darwinian evolution is decidedly non-progressionist? Is it not so that the mechanics of natural selection guarantee the survival of the more fit species?

joshwaxman said...

please read my other (linked-to) post for a definition.

kol tuv,

Yeshivish said...

Thanks! I was thinking along the same lines as Natan Slifkin- that similar ancestry does not obviate the fact that it was more primative than we are, which is an affront to the decline of generations. That said, I saw your response and I agree.

joshwaxman said...


to put it in perhaps clearer terms, with an example, a human is not "better" than a polar bear. it depends on the environmental conditions. put each on the north pole, and clearly the polar bear is better. it has fur to protect it from the elements, can swim in the icy waters to get its food, and can store up food and hibernate. plunk a human in the time of the dinosaurs, and I think that arguably a T-rex is "better" than a human. across time, as environmental conditions change, yes, survival of the fittest will make it more likely that each species that survives will be the "best" fit for thriving in that environment. but there is no "ladder" of progression towards the optimal, as Lamarck believed. and Rav Shternbuch's critique (if you read his article carefully) was that the entire basis, and guiding principle, of Darwinian evolution is this progressionist belief.

kol tuv,


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