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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


Serious Notions with a Smile


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Title Author Date
The Kuzari - The Principle and the Formalism Froman, Michael Feb 09, 2007
Did ancient Hebrews in the desert see something improvable by science? Who knows, but the likelihood that they accurately relayed actual events to the best of their limited understanding to successive generations is very likely and basically flips Mr. Yust's assertions on their back with no real high ground from which to make an argument.
This is one of the few instances where dogma and superstition in and of themselves make a case that is difficult to reason against because they have honesty, veracity and ritualized methods of transmission of information at their very core.
If you could pass this note on to Mr. Yust I would greatly appreciate it.


Michael Froman
Rapid City SD
Related Articles: The Kuzari - The Principle and the Formalism

Title Author Date
The Kuzari - The Principle and the Formalism Yust, David Feb 09, 2007
Dear Mr. Froman,

It was not without some misgivings that I have decided to reply to your letter, which was kindly forwarded to me by the administrator of the talkreason.org site. As a rule, I do not react to letters or comments containing phrases like "... flips Mr. Yust's assertions on their back". This time, however, I have decided to make an exception, since continuing the discussion you have launched may prove fruitful if done in the right vein. My reply will be brief -- and, I hope, sufficient.
1. If I understand correctly, you agree that the Kuzari Principle (KP) does not have a universal effect. In other words, the mere fact of some closed community claiming the universal nature of admitting the veracity of a certain assertion is insufficient to establish the truth of this assertion. This is already something, since the overwhelming majority of KP apologists actually hold it to be universal, and thus needing no specific Jewish arguments as proof. The rejection of universality takes the discussion into a different, Jewish sphere, and that changes the picture significantly.
2. The aforementioned apologists, the modern-day ones at least, have very good reasons to argue for the universal nature of the KP. The fact of the matter is that they need the KP itself in order to prove, or at the very least to substantiate, the scientific validity of the Orthodox version of Jewish history. The specifically Jewish nature of the KP renders it practically useless -- for if they manage to convince their opponents to accept the model of Jewish history that is necessary for the KP, the KP itself becomes irrelevant.
3. Specifically, if we manage (following in your footsteps, for example) to agree from the very start that the Jews, from time immemorial, transmitted historical information faithfully and reverently, then why do we need the KP? After all, it then becomes obvious that the account of the Sinai revelation too was transmitted accurately -- case closed.
4. Since the opponent cannot be expected to make such an a priori concession, the Jewish apologists invented the KP as a universal logical argument that abolishes the need for specifically Jewish axioms, and not just as a paraphrase of the axiom of Jewish historical veracity.
5. At the same time, a simple analysis of scientific data quickly refutes the assumption of the homogeneity of the way the Jews perceive their own history (including sacred history) during recorded antiquity. I am afraid that you have underestimated my reticence in this regard; I, for one, have consciously refrained from discussing this issue in the work in question. And yet such a discussion is almost inevitable.
Related Articles: The Kuzari - The Principle and the Formalism

Title Author Date
The Kuzari - The Principle and the Formalism Yust, David Feb 09, 2007
6. Thus, you write:

"There has been a documentable unbroken line of transmission about these stories from Torah at least from the time of the Pre-Christian Qumran documents until the present day..."

Sadly, there is absolutely no evidence for any kind of "unbroken line", even in later times, say, the first century CE. As you probably know, at that time the Jews of Judea, not to mention the Diaspora Jewry, were divided into several religious sects belonging to different traditions. Moreover -- and it was the Qumran records that have shown this -- their holy books differed from one another. However significant or minor we believe the extent of these differences -- ideological and textual -- to be, a single tradition is absolutely out of the question. At the same time, even slight differences in the transmission of historical tradition can modify it to a significant degree (in theory at least, but our debate concerning the KP is theoretical). More importantly, the very issue of a "single tradition" was simply non-existent during the time in question. The concept of "single tradition" is a gradual and far from instantaneous product of later times, when the rabbinical circles, after a series of attempts, succeeded in unifying both the Jewish religious thought and its sacred texts. From that time onward, we are indeed justified in talking about a "single tradition", at least in a theoretical sense, but it cannot be projected back into the past.
7. Analysis of older data is even more telling, clearly pointing at an ethnic, ideological and religious evolution of the Israeli ethnos. Evolution, however, is something that is directly at odds with the rigidly meticulous transmission of tradition that is so essential to the apologists of the KP. Today we can say with full certainty that the Israelites of the 8th or 9th century BCE would be simply puzzled by the present-day Orthodox Jewish historians or religious leaders. The ancients would find their stories outlandish in the extreme.
Related Articles: The Kuzari - The Principle and the Formalism

Title Author Date
The Kuzari - The Principle and the Formalism Yust, David Feb 09, 2007
8. You make an odd statement:

"The main premise of the Jewish argument lies in the fact that by their very own superstitions and rules they have insured the reliability of their information unlike any other religious group before or since. The penalty for falsely relating information about any event involving their Creator Being was death..."

This statement is so inconsistent with facts that I simply fail to see what kind of reality you try to attribute it to. As I have already mentioned, even in the first century CE the Jewish thought was not yet unified. In fact, even in later, post-Talmudic times (exactly the same as today) this unification was not compete, even though a dominant branch of Judaism was in evidence. Still, where and when was a unified Jewish community in a position to impose a death penalty on those who misrepresented religious information? I am afraid that you have once again invented a myth that is more or less equivalent to the KP and equally remote from historical reality.
9. No less interesting are your thoughts on morality -- whether absolute or not. Even the Jewish Orthodox morality of today not only does not require adherence to truth, but, on the contrary, openly advocates reliance on apologetic dogmas. It defines truth as anything that fosters faith, and lie as anything that undermines that faith. In days of old, morality was even less devoted to truth. I believe that in this regard, the Jews were no different from the followers of other religions, but that has no particular relevance in this case. What is important is that morality has always been guided by considerations of collective expediency, and that does not sit all that well with empirical truth. Where transmission of tradition is concerned, morality is a flexible proposition.
Related Articles: The Kuzari - The Principle and the Formalism

Title Author Date
The Kuzari - The Principle and the Formalism Yust, David Feb 09, 2007
10. Finally, for the key point. You write:

"Did ancient Hebrews in the desert see something improvable by science?"

Essentially, you propose to take it on faith that the ancient Hebrews actually wandered through the desert, where they may have encountered supernatural phenomena of one kind or another. However, accepting this thesis (which is a verbatim quote from the notorious Kuzari) is tantamount to accepting the KP. Thus, while making your task of defending the KP significantly easier, you nevertheless push yourself into the proverbial vicious circle. However, modern science rightly (for exclusively empirical reasons) holds the very account of Exodus and the Hebrews' sojourn in the desert to be a myth. You may not be obligated to agree with it (although you are obligated to refute its reasoning), but that does not mean you have the right to hold up the opposite as an axiom. You want the Hebrews to wander though the desert? Find the proof.
11. In conclusion, I have two questions. First, do you actually believe that the Orthodox version of Jewish history corresponds to reality? Second, do you actually believe the KP to be true? Neither of the two is made explicitly clear in your letter.

Best regards,

Related Articles: The Kuzari - The Principle and the Formalism