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Orthodox Judaism: does it have a case?
By Alexander Eterman
Posted September 6, 2006
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 
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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
list, the list of relevant historical knowledge, could go on, but the above is
more than enough for our purposes.
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 ,
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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".
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.
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.
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.
 This is not
the only prerequisite -- see below.
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.