Thursday, December 27, 2007

More on Faith vs. Evidence

Anonymous left a comment to my post "Faith vs. Evidence" on Dec. 24.

I started typing a comment in response, but decided my point merited a new post.

Anonymous wrote:

"Great blog. I came across it accidentally, but well thought out and thorough posts.

"Anyway, I don't think your generalization in the 2nd paragraph holds. I came from a pretty religious family, from an early age as I can remember I always valued logic and reasoning more than blind faith.

"But anyway, on to your statement that "There is nothing in the documentary hypothesis to force me to reject God's existence". If you are accepting scientific reasoning, as your post seems to suggest (e.g. you are refer to documentary hypothesis, which is a scientific construct), then you are going about it from the wrong angle. Extraordinary claims required extraordinary proofs. Thus, you have to prove God's existence rather than wait for someone else to disprove it. Otherwise, I could just say that there is nothing in the documentary hypothesis to force me to reject the existence of exquisite set of Fabergé eggs traveling in orbit of Jupiter.

"Moreover, as far as adjusting belief to fit empirical evidence... Sorry, either you believe in God or you do not. Adjusting your belief based on the soup du jour makes the belief invalid."


Thanks for the comment.

What I was saying is that I am NOT basing my entire belief system entirely on rationalism. I am both a rational being and a religious one.

I come from a belief in God & Judaism. That, I admit, is not a rational belief. It is a religious one. I don’t advocate for that position based on a reasoned understanding of the evidence. I feel it emotionally, in a way that has nothing to do with empiricism.

On the other hand, I also view myself as a rational being. I am confronted with evidence about the natural world and of history and archeology, evidence that was not available to earlier generations.

So I am forced to retreat. But it does not mean that I must throw out all of my religious beliefs, but simply to acknowledge that some of them may have been based on myth and legend. Does that mean the entire foundation of my belief in Judaism has crumbled? I say no.

I concede the points I must, based on incontrovertible evidence. For instance, archeological and geological evidence clearly proves there was no worldwide flood in ancient times. Does that mean that I have to throw out the baby with the bathwater?

No! There are many ways to understand the flood tale related in the Torah. God meant it allegorically or symbolically. Or maybe there was a massive flood and it seemed like it covered the entire world and the Torah was given to humans in language they could understand. Or perhaps the Torah was written by humans, but it encompassed a measure of divine revelation.

Many of the dogmatic beliefs of Judaism were formulated much later than biblical times, and many of those even later than Talmudic times. So what if one part of dogma is proven to be untrue. There is enough richness of tradition to reach back and find a different explanation from antiquity that allows my belief to stand.


  1. Yehudi, i was the Anonymous poster you are referring to. I am not trying to hide behind anonymity, just eternally annoyed by having to register everywhere.

    I am not trying to pester you, honest. I guess it comes down to this. Which pieces of the bible/torah DO you believe in? Because the march of science is unstoppable. In fact, it's accelerating.

    So today you retreat because archaeological and geological evidence clearly proves there was no worldwide flood in ancient times. You probably already retreated from the concept that the world is 6000 years old. Tomorrow you'll retreat somewhere else because new evidence will come to light. At some point, someone will invent a time machine go to mount sinai and maybe tell us that Moses is a figment of somebody's imagination. So you'll retreat some more.

    Maybe retreat is not the right word. Re-interpretation is probably better.

    I attended a JLI class on jewish history a couple of years ago and the teacher (a local rabbi) brought up the fact that the torah has not changed since inception. While, the bible (or at least new testament) changes all the time with various editions, etc... Not sure how true that is, but... What good is it that the torah never changes, if it's interpretation changes with every scientific discovery.

    So what are you not willing to retreat on in the face of scientific progress?

  2. I read a few of your post and I see you struggling with the supposed conflict between Torah beliefs and reality. I think that you need to reevaluate which Torah beliefs are empitical and which are based on acceptance through revelation and as a part of a system. If you can get that straight you will not have to backtrack so fast. I notice that most of the supposed problems are based on wrong assumptions and the lumping together of different categories of belief.