Sunday, October 24, 2010

Opening Argument by Baruch Pelta

Rabbi Dovid Kornreich and I agree on very little, but there is at least one thing I think we agree on. If our lives are to be reliant on The Torah and the rabbinic literature because of Divine rules given at Sinai, we must accept the following opinions as normative: humans did not evolve from a common ancestor of chimpanzees and the universe is no older than 5,771 years. I am aware that my friend Rabbi Slifkin has attempted to reconcile science with Torah and I would be happy to debate anybody on the Torah interpreted that way too, but for the purposes of this debate, I think it is sufficient to note that I agree with my opponent and his interpretation. The accepted gedolim, Rabbi Moshe Meiselman (Kornreich’s rebbe), Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb (the man Kornreich has written would do best in a debate for the veracity of the Torah), and many others agree with us! Gottlieb has written the following gem about 15 years ago. It sums up the Torah view better than I can:

“The solution to the contradiction between the age of the earth and the universe according to science and the Jewish date of 5755 years since Creation is this: the real age of the universe is 5755 years, but it has misleading evidence of greater age. The bones, artifacts, partially decayed radium, potassium-argon, uranium, the red-shifted light from space, etc. - all of it points to a greater age which nevertheless is not true. G-d put these things in the universe and they lead many to the false conclusion of a much greater age. I said the evidence is misleading. Does that mean that G-d is tricking us? Not at all: He told us the truth! Only someone who [perversely] decides to ignore the statement of the Creator and rely only on what he can investigate will be lead to a false conclusion.”
There you go! Every piece of evidence we have which converges may be dismissed because of what the Torah said!
I don’t know of any book or website where this Biblical model of our young universe has been fully explained in a rational manner. What about the fossil record? What about all of the things which Gottlieb mentioned? To quote a question from Rabbi Slifkin to this model, “From when to when did Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs, respectively, live?” How about the Sumerians who historians maintain invented glue a thousand years before the universe was allegedly created? Folks, I just think that these are the sorts of questions which a Torah Jew would have to address to convince modern thinking secular individuals that he has the truth. I put the challenge forthrightly to Dovid to propound his model of the universe as a plausible one; otherwise, the Torah doesn't seem very plausible.

Conditional upon our debate mirroring some National Forensic League format or a format which Hitchens has debated a proposition in over the past ten years, I agreed to defer to Dovid with regards to how the debate was to be conducted. He asked that I come up with an official format to mirror (I chose the Hitchens-Hitchens debate on the proposition that God does not exist and he is not great at the Hauenstein Center in 2008), requested that it be text-based, and decided that I should go firs and that he should have the last word. Finally, he wrote that the maximum word count for our opening arguments should be 5,000. I have not seen it necessary to utilize this limit because the opinion of Young Earth Creationism which both Dovid and I agree the Torah normalizes seems to be such a simple and basic falsehood. Should Dovid choose to utilize far more words than I did, readers should understand that is his prerogative. I beg to propose the motion which stands in my name.