Monday, August 23, 2010

Rabbi Gottlieb: What a Putz

I have to thank Shilton for pointing me to this, which I thought deserved its own post.

This man actually has a degree in mathematical logic, but everything he argues seems to consist of two rules:

1) Assign acronyms to things, and then make truth value statements with no regard to actual logical relationships. ("If we call belief in Torah 'BIT,' and we assign variable 'BIT' a truth value of 'true,' we find that belief in Torah is unquestionably true.")

2) Bring up simple-sounding examples that have no relevant relationship to what you are discussing. ("If Reuven and Shimon are on a boat and Reuven falls off, surely we would say there are now fewer people on the boat. Similarly, the Torah is unquestionably true.")

In the above link, Rabbi Gottlieb responds to the point that belief in mass revelation could have developed gradually by myth formation, as opposed to his strawman in his "Kuzari Principle." The first three-fourths of the response consists of rule #2 being applied. ("But you see, something can be possible but implausible." Yeah, thanks.)

His actual argument (in the last two paragraphs) consists of rule #1: A myth process would probably lead to a belief that is false. But a National Experiential Tradition ("NET") is true, so it cannot have come from a myth.

Sorry? Does he think that makes any sense? Yes, the point of the myth development idea is to show how it could be false. That you previously ignored the realistic scenarios in which it could be false does not mean that those scenarios are now inapplicable, just because you already labeled it as true.

MAYBE--and just maybe--this kind of thing would be forgivable (with an eye roll) for someone who truly had no way of knowing better whatsoever. But Rabbi Gottlieb should. And so: what a putz.


12 comments:

Shilton HaSechel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shilton HaSechel said...

I found even worse stuff:

http://www.dovidgottlieb.com/works/SinaiArgument.htm

I REALLY want to know how he got a Phd!

no one said...

People choose their beliefs based on irrational reasons even if they are very smart people. It should not surprise you that an educated man can support his beliefs with irrational reason. This is common in politics and religion. I would suggest that the geulah will come when people start basing their beliefs on Reason and if evidence is lacking and the proofs are not sufficient then people should have hold that their beliefs are tentative until further evidence or logical proof is available.

Big Dave said...

"People choose their beliefs based on irrational reasons even if they are very smart people."

I would hazard to say they don't "choose" their beliefs at all. They are brought up believing x and they spend the rest of their lives in a kind of x post facto justfication of what they have been taught.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Remember that math and Torah are very different. In math there are no principles of faith, nothing that demands "I would think this but I'm not allowed to". In Judaism there are. Therefore his approach to math and Judaism can be completely different. He may be a fantastic mathematician but he hamstrings his arguments in Judaism by applying all sorts of principle of faith which were only invented in the last generation.
At any rate, he's not worth paying too much attention to. For too long he's lectured new BT's at Ohr Sameach without having to field any hard questions.

no one said...

I think people do choose their beliefs based on rational reasons. Sometimes (and the best of times) it is because of what their parents have taught them. This is good.

Only if someone has been born into an evil religion and realize it they should try to modify their beliefs to be in accord with Reason.
But there are hosts of other reasons why people choose their beliefs and politics---identification with a certain group, belief clusters, perceived self interest etc.
This is why the Rambam is so essential to all Jews. If not for him it is likely we all would have devolved into fanatic chareidim

Joshua said...

The primary problem here seems to be the construction of an artificial reference class. That is, he is picking out the "NET" category as the relevant reference class rather than the class of general myths. It seems that this is the category being picked out in advance to get certain results. If this is the only belief in NET then his argument fails pretty miserably. The precise definition of NET might matter. For example, is this belief that the US Civil War was over slavery or not over slavery in NET? Is the claim that no Armenian genocide occurred in Turkey a NET belief? If one says yes to any of these then his central claim even given this rationalization fails.

Incidentally, speaking as a mathematician (ok a grad student but close enough for this purpose) mathematicians often have all sorts of irrational beliefs. This particular example is about par for the course.

no one said...

Some very smart people have irrational beliefs. I mean take a look at the Bible Codes. They had a world class fellow on that for a while until Barry Simon got into the act and showed it for the nonsense that it is. Boy O Boy. I can’t understand why people need such ridiculous stuff to booster their beliefs.
My feeling is that just that people should base their beliefs on Reason (Rambam style) But that in fact there is a set of a priori values that are the sublevel of Torah. And that provides the basis for Torah (dorshim taama dekra--to R. Shimon. And the Rambam uses that sublayer of a priori values to explain even Rabbi Yehuda who is not doresh taam dekra.--take a look in the perush hamishna of the rambam and you will see what I mean.
)

JIm Kraft said...

Mathematicians do have principles of faith. They're called axioms or postulates. Sometimes mathematicians get into arguments about what is permissible as an axiom. Axiom of Choice? Non-constructive proofs? Law of Excluded Middles? Almost all mathematicians accept these three, but some don't. The difference is that mathematicians are very clear about what their axioms are. In religious discussions, it's very hard to pin down what the basic assumptions of believers are. Is the "God's Goodness" an axiom? How about TMS? I could go on, but to me (as a mathematician) this is what makes these discussions so slippery.

Jim

no one said...

Jim ---That is why I am saying rational people have irrational beliefs. There is no emotional content to the axioms of Math. But there is for religious belief. If two plus two was going to benefit some interest group there would be another interest group to oppose it. That is why I am saying that people should decide to base their beliefs on reason. Only in areas where reason does not reach would faith come into play. Good night

elemir said...

>>>> That is why I am saying that people should decide to base their beliefs on reason.
so based on this premise, do you believe in TMS? the historicity of the unlikely events recorded in the Torah??

no one said...

I have just one article of Faith. Learn Gemara. All the other stuff about articles of faith seems silly to me. And for sure if all the evidence says TMS is wrong I have no problem understanding that is an allegory just like the rambam wrote openly about Maase breshit. I can’t see what people get excited about simple issues the rambam addressed long ago.