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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Thinking About Faith

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson





Religious belief and analytic thinking are mutually exclusive?

JewishWorldReview.com | What shapes a person's world view? Where do ideas come from? From whence do our outlooks and attitudes spring forth, and to what can we attribute our biases and perspectives?

British philosopher Henry Sidgwick offered the following observation:


We think so because other people all think so;

or because —

or because, after all, we do think so;

or because we were told so, and think we must think so;

or because we once thought so, and think we still think so;

or because, having thought so, we think we will think so…


Ultimately, we would like to credit analytic thinking as the basis of our beliefs, since it is the faculty that most distinguishes man from all other creatures. But analysis can just as easily lead us in circles if we decide where we are going to end up before we actually get there.

Case in point: a recent article published in journal Science, according to which new research has produced an "emerging consensus" that thinking analytically may lead to the erosion of religious belief.

In a variety of studies, researchers asked subjects to work a series of logic problems, to solve word puzzles incorporating answers such as analyze, reason, and ponder, and to look at pictures like Rodin's famous sculpture "The Thinker." Responding on follow-up questionnaires, subjects reported weaker religious convictions.

Researchers' conclusions offered no surprises. "In some ways this confirms what many people, both religious and nonreligious, have said about religious belief for a long time, that it's more of a feeling than a thought," says University of Chicago psychologist Nicholas Epley.

However, scientific method recognizes the value of observational evidence only after the scientist has articulated a cogent hypothesis, and this requires an accurate definition of terms. It is here that the studies fail, veering off the highway of reason and losing their way in the wilderness of preconception and self-fulfilling prophecy.

WHAT IS FAITH?
I used to enjoy flying, but that was before I began to contemplate the principle of the airfoil. A subtle curvature lengthens the wing's upper surface so that the air passing over the wing flows slightly faster than the air below. This creates above the wing a low pressure zone powerful enough to suck a hundred tons of metal up to an altitude of 40,000 feet. Truth be told, I felt much more secure when I had "faith" in the aeronautical engineers who design commercial aircraft than I do now that I really understand how the process works.


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Okay, that's nobody's problem but my own. Nevertheless, my faith in airline corporations — like my faith in my doctor, in my accountant, and in my auto mechanic — is not based on feelings or intuition but in a fully rational respect for experts who understand their field far better than I ever will. This is not the blind faith of stepping over the edge of a cliff and expecting G0d to catch me. It is the faith of reason.

Furthermore, contrary to researchers' assertions, belief in a Creator is not intuitive at all. Just the opposite: both common sense and human experience incline us to reject out of hand the notion of an infinite, eternal, and all-powerful being. It is our visceral desire to impose logic on our universe that compels us to search for any explanation that saves us from the mind-bending proposal of an Almighty Deity.

And so, to escape the unthinkable, science has provided us with two "theories" that allow us to confidently embrace the premise of a random universe. The first is called Big Bang. The second is called Evolution.

ALL THINKS, WISE AND WONDERFUL
Let's focus on the Big Bang. Here's what National Geographic has to say:


Before the big bang, scientists believe, the entire vastness of the observable universe, including all of its matter and radiation, was compressed into a hot, dense mass just a few millimeters across. This nearly incomprehensible state is theorized to have existed for just a fraction of the first second of time.

Big bang proponents suggest that some 10 billion to 20 billion years ago, a massive blast allowed all the universe's known matter and energy—even space and time themselves—to spring from some ancient and unknown type of energy.

The theory maintains that, in the instant—a trillion-trillionth of a second—after the big bang, the universe expanded with incomprehensible speed from its pebble-size origin to astronomical scope. Expansion has apparently continued, but much more slowly, over the ensuing billions of years.

The big bang theory leaves several major questions unanswered. One is the original cause of the big bang itself. Several answers have been proposed to address this fundamental question, but none has been proven—and even adequately testing them has proven to be a formidable challenge.


In four short paragraphs, we find the words believe, suggest, and theorize, the word incomprehensible twice, as well as the phrases unknown type of energy and major questions unanswered. What happened to analytic reasoning, scientific method, and intellectual honesty? Where is the willingness to admit frankly that we don't have a clue what set the mechanism of our universe into motion? When the alternative leaves us no choice but to contemplate the possibility of Let there be light, objective thinking takes flight into oblivion.

Nor is it merely the past that eludes explanation. We can't even master the present, and the more we learn, the less we understand. Even NASA is at a loss to account for the mysteries right before our eyes:


In the early 1990's, one thing was fairly certain about the expansion of the Universe… gravity was certain to slow the expansion as time went on. Granted, the slowing had not been observed, but, theoretically, the Universe had to slow [as] matter and the attractive force of gravity pulls all matter together. Then came 1998, and the Hubble Space Telescope [showed] that, a long time ago, the Universe was actually expanding more slowly than it is today. So the expansion of the Universe has not been slowing due to gravity, as everyone thought, it has been accelerating. No one expected this, no one knew how to explain it. But something was causing it.


Well, of course something is causing it. And scientists are absolutely certain that they will one day discover the explanation.

When it comes to Evolution, scientists are equally certain that they will one day discover an explanation for the statistical and theoretical impossibility of spontaneous generation — without which they cannot account for life on earth — and for the breathtaking lack of fossil evidence to support the hypothesis of macroevolution. And they are just as certain that they will one day discover why animals are little more than the sum of the atoms and neurons that compose their cerebral hardware, whereas human beings possess imagination, conscience, and nobility of spirit.

Some might suggest that the strength of their conviction has a name: faith. But that would be unscientific.

NOTHING TO FEAR, BUT FEAR ITSELF
Finally, in response to the assertion that religious belief and analytic thinking are somehow mutually exclusive, I would suggest that the researchers acquaint themselves with the rigors of Talmudic reasoning and debate that produced not only the most disciplined minds in human history but the archetypes of intellectual integrity.

Some two thousand years ago, scholars of the great academies of Hillel and Shammai argued the fine points of Jewish law with a passion compared to soldiers waging battle with "swords and spears." But when they stepped out of the study halls, they did so with their respect and affection for one another intact; each side recognized the sincerity of the other, and neither side was afraid of being proven wrong if that meant advancing the cause of Truth.

Scientists would do well to adopt the same attitude. They might begin by reflecting upon the words of Bertrand Russell:

But if thought is to become the possession of many, not the privilege of the few, we must have done with fear. It is fear that holds men back — fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, fear lest they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they have supposed themselves to be.

Of course, that might require an act of faith.


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JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis, MO, where he also writes and lectures. He is author of Dawn to Destiny: Exploring Jewish History and its Hidden Wisdom, an overview of Jewish philosophy and history from Creation through the compilation of the Talmud, now available from Judaica Press. Visit him at http://torahideals.com .






© 2012, Rabbi Yonason Goldson