Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What am I Allowed to Believe?

That's the question that many Orthodox Jews have to ask themselves. Take this post, titled Should I Argue Against Evolution or for a G-d Directed Evolution?
I have a work associate who seems interested in Torah, but he likes to challenge me about contradictions between Torah and science and other things. He recently asked me about the Torahs views on Evolution.

On the one hand, I could say that that I don’t believe in evolution and there are many holes in evolution theory and that scientists are biased against a belief in G-d. On the other hand, many secular Jews accept the scientific consensus that evolution did take place, and I could make the case that a G-d directed evolution would not necessarily contradict the Torah.

My Rav holds that you don’t have to take a 6,000 year creation literally.

What approach makes more sense when dealing with non observant Jews?

Wikipedia's page on intellectual dishonesty should redirect to that post.

The poster isn't interested in what's true, but in what he is allowed to believe ("My Rav holds that you don’t have to take a 6,000 year creation literally") and what beliefs would be useful ("What approach makes more sense when dealing with non observant Jews?")

Commenter Michoel worries that the poster is not being careful enough:
Jack wrote that his Rav holds that one may believe in a universe which is more than 6,000 years. Somehow you took that to mean that one can believe in Evolution. That is an enormous leap.

Heaven forbid we come to the erroneous conclusion that one "can" believe in evolution. A rabbi must give us explicit permission!

Bob Miller spells out a method for coming to a belief that is consistent with the Torah:
Step 1 is to understand the Torah’s account of creation and subsequent history in light of the entire Mesorah, including the opinions of Chazal, Rishonim, Acharonim, etc. With a comprehensive inside view on all levels (”Pardes”) one can begin to see which of today’s physical/biological theories may be consistent with a Torah view and which may not.

To be fair, a few commenters did jump in to point out that there is, in fact, overwhelming evidence of evolution. I just think it's crazy that people care more about what they are allowed to believe than what's true.

9 comments:

Jack said...

A question like what I am allowed to believe is frightening. If that doesn't make you stop and take notice of the path you are on...

Baal Devarim said...

"I just think it's crazy that people care more about what they are allowed to believe than what's true."

I don't think this accurately portrays their position. They view things from a different epistemological perspective. They already "know" that whatever the Torah (in this I include all traditional sources) says is True; all they're trying to determine is the correct Torah-based view. Whatever that view is, must be the truth by definition.

I suspect they also have a different view on the nature of belief. You see it as something that happens to you; they see it as an action they take about something else.

(I personally happen to agree with your views on both counts. I just think your portrayal of the opposing viewpoint is inaccurate.)

Jewish Atheist said...

Baal Devarim:

I think what you wrote about their epistemology is also true, but they are explicitly discussing what one is permitted to believe as well.

I suspect they also have a different view on the nature of belief. You see it as something that happens to you; they see it as an action they take about something else.

Agreed. Doesn't inspire much faith in the things they do believe.

Baal Devarim said...

"but they are explicitly discussing what one is permitted to believe as well"

This is because forbidden beliefs CANNOT be true (in their epistemology).

BEAJ said...

Religion is all about what one is allowed to believe. Many people, especially when it comes to Christians will either make concessions on what makes sense to them or change to a different sect of Christianity, one that fits what they believe.
Many Baptist churches in the US and Canada don't allow you to accept evolution.
OT I found out there are at least 7 types of creationists in the world. I posted a survey on my blog:
What type of creationist are you?

Jewish Atheist said...

This is because forbidden beliefs CANNOT be true (in their epistemology).

But they're still worried about what they're ALLOWED to believe.

bobvis said...

It is packed with intellectual dishonesty.

It's surprisingly full of actual honesty though. There isn't a hint of trickery. He is quite plainly asking "what can I get away with when I go talk to this guy?"

It's brilliantly grotesque, and I can't help but be a bit dazzled by it. One can imagine a similar discussion going on somewhere where one parent asks another what to tell her son who has asked her where babies come from.

jewish philosopher said...

You're not allowed to believe in evolution.

jewish philosopher said...

No easter bunnies either.