Home| Letters| Links| RSS| About Us| Contact Us

On the Frontline

What's New

Table of Contents

Index of Authors

Index of Titles

Index of Letters

Mailing List


subscribe to our mailing list:



SECTIONS

Critique of Intelligent Design

Evolution vs. Creationism

The Art of ID Stuntmen

Faith vs Reason

Anthropic Principle

Autopsy of the Bible code

Science and Religion

Historical Notes

Counter-Apologetics

Serious Notions with a Smile

Miscellaneous

Letter Serial Correlation

Mark Perakh's Web Site

email this article to a friend printer-friendly format download format voice your opinion Digg It

Orthodox Judaism: does it have a case?

By Alexander Eterman

Posted September 6, 2006

As we well know, the Torah (or, if you wish, the Orthodox Jewish teaching) is, at the very least, not only a fanciful metaphysical theory detached from empirical reality, it is a concrete and binding picture of the physical, historical and social world. It is precisely the concrete and binding nature of this picture that makes the question of its conformance to reality such a pivotal issue. As we are about to see, this conformance is rather problematic. Those few Jewish theoreticians (such as Rabbi Kook and Yeshayahu Leibowitz) who, having realized the full scale of this problem, made a serious attempt to sever the Torah entirely from reality in one blow, have not been all that successful in this endeavor. Nor it is any wonder: people, to the extent they are able to, prefer to lord it over all the worlds at once; at any rate, they are loath to give up commonplace empirical advantages for ill-defined metaphysics. Since the Torah is a collective teaching, rather than the personal domain of a handful of eccentrics, is it an undeniable fact that the picture of the world it offers is still binding on most of its adherents.

There is no use pretending that this question (that of the link between the Torah and reality) is peripheral or misstated. Moreover, there is no point in making it more complicated than it is. There is no doubt that the Torah bases its authority on succession, that is to say on the traditional nature of the information it contains, which goes directly back to divine revelation that is not only indisputable but immutable. If we are to believe the Orthodox teaching, its core is ancient and imperishable, so that it is a palpable testimony of all times, from the world's beginning to our days. Thus the Torah is a self-proclaimed part (or even the primary source) of history, both natural and human, with all that this entails. This means that it views itself as a verifiable theory. The premise of "come and see for yourself" recurs time and time again in the Torah itself, from the Pentateuch to the Talmud.

The scope of the information contained in the theory of Judaism, its multifaceted nature and frequent pragmatism, make it possible to verify a large part of it. Not all, of course: the voluminous non-empirical sacral code of laws (reduced to statements like "it is forbidden to light fires on Shabbat" or "a priest is not permitted to marry a divorced woman") can be tested at most for contradictions -- a tempting task, but one that is outside of our present agenda. We are concerned solely with the empirical part of the Jewish code -- that is more than enough for now.

In order to qualify for empirical truth, the Torah, in its authentic ancient accounts, must make successful use of many natural sciences (from physics to biology), as well as of history in all its diverse forms (be it political, social, or the history of oral and written languages). Clearly, it must be far in advance of the its contemporaneous science; it should be equally in advance of the science of our times. This advance is definitely verifiable. In light of the considerable progress that has taken place over the last two or three millennia in the aforementioned areas, it could not have gone unnoticed. Therefore a systematic analysis of Torah assertions must be extensive and multi-faceted. For its ambitious claims to make sense, above all [1] it must not be caught in crude and systematic errors. I re-emphasize: since the ambitions of the Jewish teaching reach far beyond the limits of the knowledge available at the time it was codified, an analysis that makes systematic use of current scientific data can either destroy this teaching in its current Orthodox form or unequivocally confirm its extraordinary, super-human nature. Moreover, the present level of knowledge is but a mere trifle for a higher being, so that meeting its standards is only a basic necessary condition. Essentially, the Torah must outstrip today's science, making numerous phenomenal predictions and paving the way for science.

It is pointless to avoid such an analysis. The question of the factual veracity of the Jewish teaching, of its scientific verisimilitude, stands completely apart from the question of believing in God and of religious practice (both collective and individual); some Orthodox Jews have taken advantage of this. Then again, objective verification of crucial empirical claims made by a teaching cannot but have a certain impact -- both positive and negative -- on its potential adherents. Nevertheless, market-determined considerations should not disturb real seekers of truth. Thus, let us clearly formulate the only questions that we should be concerned with.

  • Is the picture of the world presented by the Jewish religious teaching true?
  • Did the creator of this teaching -- whoever he might be -- have the correct concept of the world?
  • Does this teaching present an adequate account of itself, of its own origins and evolution?

Or, to put it briefly, does the Torah, in its Orthodox interpretation, tell us the truth concerning itself and the world?

Any competent analysis of the material we have at our disposal today leads to one unequivocal conclusion: all three questions can only be answered in the negative. There is no room for doubt here. The material is multifaceted and plentiful, the claims being examined are sufficiently explicit and have empirical meaning. Most importantly, there is no point in nitpicking: the Torah creates quite a comprehensive picture in terms of physics, natural sciences and history. The only trouble is that this picture is outdated by millennia, and does not even measure up to the knowledge available in the remote past in which it was codified. In other words, it barely withstands critical evaluation using the methods and criteria of two thousand years ago, and crumbles to dust at the slightest touch of modern scrutiny. Its author lacked the knowledge that is readily available to any present-day schoolchild. Moreover, he made assertions (mistaken ones to boot) that betray his cultural origins and serve as telltale signs of the period in which he lived. What is equally important, he displays an utter ignorance of the history of his own religion, his own country and his own people. Thus the Torah and other classical Jewish books, for better or for worse, fall far short of being the product of superhuman wisdom and erudition. On the contrary, these works are all too human and badly outdated -- just like many other ancient books and teachings -- with all that this entails.

I would like to point out that professional apologists for Judaism are well known for their attempts to conceal the inarguable weakness of the Jewish teaching by means of makeshift ruses and manipulations. For now, we are not going to discuss these ruses -- above all because such a discussion would lead us far astray. What is more, they have been thoroughly examined in relevant textbooks. What is of far greater importance for us is that the Jewish teaching fails not in its peripheral aspects, not in debatable or vaguely defined details, but along the entire front of its assertions, in its description of the background against which it unfolds, and above all in its self-description. Its defenders find themselves in the classical "no-case" predicament: they are unable to make even the most basic reasonable non-apologetic statement. Specifically, they have never managed to construct an empirically cohesive version of Jewish and regional history, one with at least a modicum of accuracy and consistency. At one time we contacted virtually every possible expert with a request they create such a version. As was to be expected, our pleas were in vain. Today we realize that such a version simply can not exist; the very attempt to bridge the sacral and the real histories of the Jews would constitute a blasphemy.

Allow me to explain in a somewhat more concrete manner.

By the present time, mankind has painstakingly amassed certain knowledge that is pertinent to our discussion. This knowledge is irreversible; while science is certain to perfect it in the course of its evolution, science will never discard it.

We know that the universe we inhabit has been in existence for billions of years, probably for over ten billion years, that our planet has existed for about five billion years, and that life on this planet came into being some three billion years ago. What is even more important, we know that both animate and inanimate nature has transformed, or rather evolved, under the influence of sufficiently (though not completely) understood natural laws.

We know that the sun is a mere star, one among a multitude of such stars in the universe, that our sun, let alone Earth, is not the center of the universe.

We know that the animals and plants living on our planet today, with rare exceptions, appeared relatively recently: several million or even several hundreds of thousands years ago. They were preceded by other species which have become extinct by now. On the other hand, none of the animal species known to us, apart from those bred artificially by man, appeared on Earth in the last six thousand years.

We know that modern man (biologically speaking) is the product of a lengthy evolutionary process, that he has existed in his present form for about a hundred thousand years, that he was directly preceded by other humanoid and ape species possessing some intelligence and a certain culture, and that they, in turn, descended from animals that were not sapient. More importantly, both the humans and the animals trace their origins to primitive fossils that were the only living beings in Earth a billion years ago.

We know that humans who could be considered civilized even by today's standards lived on Earth thirty or forty (if not seventy or eighty) thousand years ago. They built houses, made tools and weapons, painted, and created religious cults. A little later they domesticated a number of animals. Not only were these people full-fledged Homo sapiens, but they are our immediate biological ancestors. And yet they lived long before the proposed Jewish date for the creation of the world and of man.

We know something even more important. The civilizations we know of, and almost certainly the Egyptian and the Mesopotamian ones in their continuous evolution, are easily traced far back into the third millennium BCE, i.e. the antediluvian times -- thus they were never destroyed by a flood. Moreover, their most ancient forms, in an equally continuous manner, go back even further, beyond the 4000 BCE mark, i.e. the traditional Jewish date for the creation of the world. To this we should add that our own neck of the woods, Palestine and Southern Syria (once one of the major centers of world civilization in the pre-historic times), has clear traces of cultures that stretch back as far as 4000, 5000, and even 6000 BCE. These cultures have left such abundant evidence of activity that their existence is beyond doubt. Entire museums have been devoted to preserving their memory for posterity.

We know something else. The accounts of later, historical periods contained in the Torah, the Bible and the Talmud, are far removed from reality. The authors of these books either had no knowledge of ancient history, or, what is even worse, were out of their depths in their understanding of it. Their accounts abound in anachronisms; they had no concept whatsoever of the evolution of relevant oral and written languages, let alone the history of the material culture of various countries and peoples. Thus the Torah describes millions of Jews, and even larger numbers of Egyptians and Canaanites, in complete disregard of the real demographics of the ancient times. Its accounts of Canaan are beyond history altogether. The oral and written languages ascribed by the Torah to the ancient Jews did not even exist in the second millennium BCE. Analysis of Biblical texts determines with considerable accuracy the authorship and the dates of these texts. The results of such an analysis shed light on the majority of factual blunders committed in the Bible. They are only natural, for in true Jewish antiquity, let alone during the Second Temple period when most of the biblical texts were written and arranged and certainly in the Talmudic times, the history of Canaan (along with many other histories) had been forgotten, so it could be invented virtually from scratch. Even more deplorable is the fact that Jewish authors frequently lacked the information, including historical data, that was theoretically available in the corresponding periods. However, the real tragedy facing the authors of Jewish texts is that today we have knowledge of ancient history and languages that is far more thorough and profound than that available to them and their contemporaries. Thus we have no difficulty in separating their fantasies from real-life events.

We know that the Biblical narrative (with or without the totally non-realistic Talmudic additions) is detached from real history until it reaches the 9th - 10th centuries BCE. Where earlier periods are concerned, matters are really bad. The stories of the forefathers, Egyptian slavery, wandering in the desert, the conquest of Canaan, and the so-called period of the Judges are almost entirely divorced from history. They cannot be called exaggerated, inaccurate or even tendentious -- their connection to reality is no greater than that of the Arabian Nights, and much less than the tale of the Trojan War.

We know -- and are more than willing to reiterate -- that starting in the ninth century BCE the Biblical narrative gradually becomes recognizable, at least where its military-political aspect is concerned. Even then, however, the linkage between Biblical history and reality is very tenuous; for example, the numbers cited in the Bible are not to be taken seriously. Moreover, the historical accuracy of this narrative is limited to the Deuteronomist corpus; soon afterward the classical Jewish notions of history become unscientific once again. The Jewish historiographic tradition once again makes glaring mistakes, becoming detached from reality as soon as it reached later times familiar to us from other sources. Thus, it provides extremely inaccurate descriptions of events that took place in the sixth-third centuries BCE, such as the time of the global Persian Empire, mistakenly shortening it by approximately 150 years. As a result, the entire Jewish chronology up until the Hasmonean era, i.e. the start of the second century BCE, is faulty. At the same time, the sweeping events of these fairly late times are known to us year by year. As we can easily guess, the Bible and later Jewish tradition are equally inaccurate, if not downright incorrect, in describing the history of other peoples.

We know that the Jewish tradition has absolutely no grasp of the real history of culture -- Jewish culture included. The traditional description of the history of Jewish culture is one dismal failure, built on cumbersome anachronisms. The Jewish tradition does not realize that at least until the 8th-7th centuries BCE the Jews were a virtually illiterate, impoverished and small people, who could not have created and maintained a developed culture that requires, among other things, vigorous literary activity. Another fiction is the ancient religious history of the Jews, which was credited in hindsight, as an afterthought, with a much later and far from Jewish theology.

We know that the Halachic tradition, in the form we know, is the product of the pre-Talmudic and Talmudic eras. Its traditional reliance on earlier times often leads to anachronisms. Thus, for example, the prohibition against mixing meat and dairy products only appeared around the year zero CE, and not at all in the Talmudic form. Similarly, the first mikvaot (ritual baths) were built during the Hasmonean period (being one of the numerous rituals borrowed from the Hellenistic civilization), with all the interesting conclusions that follow, including the "eternal" nature of the Jewish theory of family life. There is no doubt that the orderly rabbinical tradition that emerged at the turn of the new era was given an artificial patina of age. As far as we are concerned, this aging process was performed in a rather clumsy manner.

This list, the list of relevant historical knowledge, could go on, but the above is more than enough for our purposes.

Our contemporary notions of the world are irreconcilable with the assertions that the world was created less than six thousand years ago, that the Earth is flat and surrounded by a thick, hard and opaque firmament [2], that it is the center of the world, with the rest of the universe rotating around it, that all biological species were created in their present form, that civilization is also very young (less than 6,000 years old, of course), the same age as the universe, that a global flood took place about the twenty second century BCE, destroying mankind along with everything else, so that today's civilization traces its origins to about 4,200 years ago, to the family of Noah, or perhaps to a few others who managed to survive the flood, that until the nineteenth century BCE all men spoke the same language -- Hebrew, naturally -- that gave rise to all the other languages, that in the thirteenth-fifteenth centuries BCE the population of Egypt, as well as of Canaan, numbered in the many millions, that for centuries millions of Jews resided in Egypt, that a body of Jews at least two million strong conquered Canaan, which was inhabited by several times as many people (we should keep in mind that the population of ancient Canaan never exceeded one million, and by the end of the second millennium BCE it did not even reach 200,000), that both the Hebrew of the Torah and modern Hebrew had alphabets made up of exactly twenty two letters (though probably of different appearance) which existed in the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries BCE, with the latter used to write down the former, and so on and so forth. There is no point in trying to rectify this theory (or, if you wish, this incongruence) by focusing on its fine points -- the inconsistencies are too great, the pictures too disparate. All of them are fantasies, amusing at times, yet always falling short of the mark. Moreover, the instructive fact that not a single Jewish authority has made the required corrections in the last fifteen centuries speaks for itself -- meaning that the literal, reverential, uncritical reading of the Jewish sources is the only possible one for the Orthodox. Without any doubt, the ancient picture painted above was perceived by Jewish sages as unquestionable truth throughout the history of rabbinical Judaism. As late as the 17th century Jewish authorities questioned the existence of America, which was at odds with the Biblical picture of the world, and we will not mention the virulent criticism they aimed at Copernicus' concept of the heliocentric nature of the universe. Only very recently, having lost the lager part of their flock, did Orthodox Judaism begin its search for apologetic corrections that only add to its confusion. Then again, even today it continues to categorically reject the theory of evolution; it is more than likely that before long Orthodox Judaism will have to learn to reconcile itself to it.

Here is another crucial note. Many apologists take comfort in the fact that science, which they for some reason consider their enemy number one, does not lay claim, unlike religion, to possessing the absolute truth, and thus it may repent in the future and meekly accept the biblical view of the world. Some of them gleefully talk about the shifting paradigms in science: for example, classical Newtonian mechanics, considered invulnerable for centuries, was ultimately replaced by Einstein's relativism. Why, then, shouldn't the Biblical picture eventually recapture the intellectual arena?

Alas, this argument should have never seen the light of day: instead of saving the Orthodox worldview, it weakens its case even further. It ignores the invariably one-way process of the evolution of natural sciences -- never have any empirical observations seriously rejected by natural sciences returned to the scientific arena with an intellectual victory. What is more important, it overlooks the real meaning of the evolution of scientific theories. Thus, for example, relativist mechanics does not for a moment invalidate the empirical observations of classical mechanics -- it only clarifies them. All the practical calculations made in the framework of Newtonian mechanics are valid. Heavenly bodies move exactly as the great English scientist and his successors predicted they would (the relativist adjustments are far more negligible than the usual calculation errors). Modern scientists had to invent complex experiments where the relativist effects are significant and tangible. Science is what it is precisely because a sound measurement remains such regardless of the theory that is used to explain it. At the same time, the biblical views rejected by science are empirical rather than theoretical in nature; they can make a triumphant comeback only if it suddenly turns out that for centuries, day after day, we have been making completely mistaken observations. Alas, the flat earth model, the geocentric universe, the fantastical tales of ancient Egypt and Canaan, the virtual exclusion of King Cyrus from the all too brief, fifty-two-year long history of the Persian Empire -- all of these have been irrevocably discarded by us, regardless of the theories we are currently developing. The Earth, alas, is shaped as an almost perfect sphere, well traveled and clearly observable from space. That we are part of the solar system is also hardly open to question; in fact, it will not be long before we are able to circumnavigate this system. The Biblical approach to facts is part of an antiquated model of the world, rather than a theory whose time is yet to come -- at least for those interested in real empiricism. What is more, a sum of facts is not even a theory!

As we have mentioned earlier, the Jewish tradition has clearly and indisputably shown itself to be the work of man -- this tradition is essentially human, or, in Nietzsche's words, "all too human". It would be fascinating to examine its dynamics. Not only is it devoid of profuse knowledge or extraordinary wisdom -- at least in those areas that are objectively verifiable. Even more importantly, it often lags behind the scientific level of its time. Thus, during the Talmudic period it clung to the flat-earth theory, while most scientists of that time had long adopted the geocentric theory of Ptolemy, who believed the earth to be a sphere and had even made a fairly accurate estimate of its diameter.  Only Maimonides, who lived one thousand years after Claudius Ptolemaeus, had adopted the Ptolemaic system. Yet he failed to even make it part of mainstream Jewish thought; Rabeiynu Tam and later Jewish sages who came after Maimonides based their halachic calculations on the Talmudic theory of a flat earth. For fifteen hundred years at the very least, Jewish thought has been in constant opposition to scientific progress, unfailingly shrugging off almost every scientific discovery. The leading rabbis have defended the flat-earth theory, the geocentric system, the idea that the world is six thousand years old, the account of the flood, the faulty chronology of the ancient world, the theory of Hebrew being the original source of all the languages, and many other erroneous beliefs. Today they are battling against Darwin's theory and so on. Judaism's fight with scientific dynamics still goes on.

New ideas either passed by empirical Judaism or penetrated it after a huge delay and with an enormous effort; it is impossible to imagine a more convincing proof of their novelty for the Jewish tradition and incompatibility with it. Doubly instructive are the apologetic efforts of the last century, for they were constantly aimed at incorporating, with some delay, more or less modern theories in Judaism, while at the same time harking back to their ancient Jewish primal source. Yet theories are not observations or measurements; they can disappoint. That is precisely what Maimonides once did with Ptolemy's theory: he declared it to be sacred for Judaism, not realizing that he had committed a serious blunder, for the theory was proven wrong! To this day, Jewish apologists are trying to explain the true meaning of Maimonides' cosmological arguments, forgetting that Maimonides did not invent this "sacred" theory but brazenly, without acknowledging his debt, borrowed it from classical Greek sources. There are countless similar examples, and in every possible area: biology (or even simple anatomy), geography, linguistics, and so on.

Equally as important is the essential lack, in Jewish sources, of lucid, verifiable statements that transcend contemporary views. No matter how desperately apologists try to find such statements, they have to content themselves with retroactive speculations to the effect that early rabbis were allegedly familiar with the theories created by non-Jewish or non-Orthodox scientists in the 19th or 20th centuries. Alas, somehow it always turns out that these same apologists learned the theories in question not in yeshivas or from Jewish sources, but rather in secular universities. Where, then, is the exalted Jewish knowledge, where are its sources and power of prediction?

It is imperative to emphasize the fact that Jewish tradition, essentially and by definition exclusively historical, is ignorant of either its own or others' past. The version of sacred history offered by Judaism is tritely wrong, and no less so are its physical or astronomical concepts. The early Israelites lived lives that were fundamentally different from those described in Jewish books. Jewish thought, both social and religious, did not evolve along the Talmudic lines, but rather in a different, fully natural fashion, and it did so in close interaction with neighboring cultures. At the same time, the axioms of Judaism are rooted in its fictitious biography; discard the sacred history of the Jews and traditional Judaism will cease to be. This fact may be of little concern to a mystically inclined person, who has chosen metaphysical or kabbalistic Judaism as a purely religious faith, yet it certainly discredits the Jewish empirical picture of the world. What is more, a potential believer of a different kind, one who is aware of the historical ignorance of Judaism, should not get involved in a search for rational arguments in favor of religion. Anyone who tries to find religion for rational reasons, mainly expecting it to provide a reliable description of reality and help him find his place in the real world, is certainly advised to look elsewhere than in classical Judaism. It should be added that the irrational aspect of Judaism is also impaired by the aforementioned historical ignorance; yet we are not going (for the time being) to develop or even substantiate this contention.

Another interesting factor: we are fully aware today that the classical version of Jewish tradition is not only flawed in its facts, but its structure is extremely shoddy. In other words, today we could easily construct a far better version of traditional Judaism, one that is much more compatible with reality; of course, it would not be omnipotent, but it would be free of glaring contradictions, and it would be virtually irrefutable. To be sure, this is a typical instance of "hindsight" -- after all, the information we possess today is far more comprehensive and reliable than that available to our ancestors during the time when Judaism was solidifying into a code, so we are in a far better position to avoid the pitfalls. However, this fact can be considered a drawback only by a skeptic -- never by apologists who could not care less about the arrow of time, the evolution of science, or evolutionary processes as such. Indeed, if we allow for a moment that the Jewish sages did possess all possible knowledge, or that their all-embracing teaching was divinely inspired, then why is it so cumbersome, lagging so far behind even today's modest level of scientific knowledge? Why are we able to create a more convincing story about the giving of the Torah, the building of the Temple, or the holy wars than the Talmudic sages? After all, we can well be more intelligent or erudite than Aristotle or Rabbi Akiva -- but not the Almighty himself!

Classical Jewish tradition, by virtue of its inherent flaws, stubbornly clings to the mistaken beliefs it has held for two millennia; it is with great difficulty, and only in part, that it assimilates the lessons of later times. It is in a state of permanent self-defense, which is a constant reminder of the mundane origins of its material and the purely social nature of the processes it undergoes. It has been steadily, and in recent centuries increasingly, falling behind the developments taking place in the great wide world. That is precisely why it has no leg to stand on when it comes to empiricism, experimentation, measurements, facts -- in short, the real-life picture of the world. That is why its claims of omnipotence are a typical instance of "no case".

Frankly, having reached this devastating conclusion, we are not rubbing our hands together in glee. True, Judaism is incapable of understanding the world, society or history. Yet this negative verdict is only the starting point for a lengthy analysis; it does nothing to dampen our interest in Jewish culture, religious culture included. Our involvement in Jewish history and culture constantly makes us ask the most intriguing of all possible questions: how did it all actually happen? Our rejection of simple transcendental answers has not in any way diminished our curiosity; even though what we are seeking are answers that are substantiated and rational rather than metaphysical. We should note, parenthetically: strangely enough, many Orthodox Jews holding traditional views and beliefs are not strangers to natural curiosity, as they are no strangers to everything human. On more than one occasion they stopped meaningless debates, tempted by a simple suggestion -- an invitation to consider what actual Jewish reality was like. Truly, curiosity is the keenest of human passions and at the same time the main enemy of Orthodoxy. It is no wonder that the same Maimonides, having realized the problems involved in his own all-knowing stance, forbids the Jews, in his famous halachic work Mishneh Torah, to even think about the veracity of the assertions made by Judaism, let alone examine any alternative ideas. Indeed, having once thought about the soundness of Judaism, even the most devout Jew is unlikely to maintain his steadfast loyalty.

For dessert, we find it difficult not to succumb to another, no less insidious temptation -- to comment on at least some of the more famous empirical statements in classical Judaism. They are singularly precious: the brilliant ideas concerning the ruminant qualities of the hare and the rabbit, who are allegedly the only ruminants with uncloven hooves (in the strange camel's company), the assertion that the human heart, liver and lungs are connected by passages through which solid objects can move from one organ to another, or that the claws on the front legs of predators (foxes, wolves, etc.) contain a deadly venom that kills their prey. These are but a few examples. We are forced to refrain from the unparalleled pleasure of discussing these in greater detail -- for such a diversion would render our central conclusion of "no case" irrelevant. If these ideas merit discussion, the case should be extensively examined rather than closed. Therefore, we either linger on every juicy detail -- or consider the whole. Our choice is clear. We are not ruling out a detailed discussion -- rather, we put it aside with great reluctance. Nevertheless, there is no point in belaboring these and other items of empirical Jewish tradition, sifting for flaws and looking for explanations. The sum total of the traditional Jewish picture of the world makes such a meticulous analysis meaningless: it contains far too many flagrant incongruities, it is too far removed from empirical reality. Classical Judaism simply has no picture of the world that deserves serious discussion, just as there is no point in seriously discussing Aristotle's physics today -- unless in a course on the history of natural sciences. Judaism, to be sure, can and even should be studied alongside other ancient cults and mythologies, but not in the faculty of natural studies. Its constructs cannot be included in a scientific description of the world; at most, they can be viewed as fragments of the history of science -- and even then rather short ones.

In our opinion, if we are painting a picture of the real world, no theory deserves protection merely by virtue of being traditional. We believe that the criterion of truth is common to all, and that it is akin, if not identical, to a moral standard. Classical Judaism is infinitely remote from objectivity, and in no way does it meet this criterion. Essentially, this simple statement is precisely what we have set out to demonstrate: Orthodox Judaism has no case.


[1] This is not the only prerequisite -- see below.

[2] Interestingly, it is this very model that serves as the foundation for the present halachic rules concerning the start and end of Shabbat; they were unaffected by the later geographic and astronomical discoveries.