On Bikinis and Earthquakes

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7 Responses

  1. Ariel says:

    Important discussion of an issue often ignored in modern society. A few issues:

    “Moreover, modern science leaves very little room for outside influence, so how can we attribute natural misfortunes to God? “
    This is perhaps the accepted position in secular society, but it primarily based on 19th-century determinism. Quantum mechanics provides a possible mechanism whereby G-d controls nature without interfering with any laws.

    ” However, as the cognitive sciences progress in their understanding of the human brain, I expect that this theory will become harder to maintain – Artificial Intelligence may bury it.”
    This is a rather casual denial of the fundamental belief in free will! Quantum effects may also help explain consciousness, in fact some say all of existence depends on being observed by a conscience observer. Either way, I do not see what artificial intelligence has to do with anything. Supercomputers are as conscience as as a cheap calculator.

    • Anonymous says:

      Conveniently, supercomputers have roughly as much to do with Artificial Intelligence as cheap calculators do. AI is not the study of cramming more transistors onto a given piece of silicon or efficiently connecting such pieces, though doubtless many corporations highly value such study. Definitions of Artificial Intelligence vary but most agree that the field revolves around teaching computers to think or act rationally (in some texts to think or act like humans). If a computer ever passes the Turing Test, or even demonstrates similar rationality, we will have to strongly reconsider any remaining forms of mind-body dualism, because such approaches will obviously be unnecessary. Admittedly, we are a long way from that point (though I have seen some promising signs for the field: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/magazine/20Computer-t.html, http://www.physorg.com/news157901184.html)nnI should point out that the sentence you quoted does not directly deal with free will. Truthfully, the cited claim by Maimonides that God directly influences human minds that seems to more directly conflict with such notions (though Maimonides may have had a different conception of free will entirely). Naturally, humanlike machines may cause us to question free will as well, though I should note that computers are certainly subject to quantum mechanics, so by your approach we might argue that they have free will. For myself (as noted in footnote x) I havenu2019t seen a strong argument for divine providence by means of quantum mechanics and I certainly have no idea how certain probabilities involving particles could lead to humans possessing any form of free will. But feel free to enlighten me.n

    • Anonymous says:

      Conveniently, supercomputers have roughly as much to do with Artificial Intelligence as cheap calculators do. AI is not the study of cramming more transistors onto a given piece of silicon or efficiently connecting such pieces, though doubtless many corporations highly value such study. Definitions of Artificial Intelligence vary but most agree that the field revolves around teaching computers to think or act rationally (in some texts to think or act like humans). If a computer ever passes the Turing Test, or even demonstrates similar rationality, we will have to strongly reconsider any remaining forms of mind-body dualism, because such approaches will obviously be unnecessary. Admittedly, we are a long way from that point (though I have seen some promising signs for the field: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/magazine/20Computer-t.html, http://www.physorg.com/news157901184.html)nnI should point out that the sentence you quoted does not directly deal with free will. Truthfully, the cited claim by Maimonides that God directly influences human minds that seems to more directly conflict with such notions (though Maimonides may have had a different conception of free will entirely). Naturally, humanlike machines may cause us to question free will as well, though I should note that computers are certainly subject to quantum mechanics, so by your approach we might argue that they have free will. For myself (as noted in footnote x) I havenu2019t seen a strong argument for divine providence by means of quantum mechanics and I certainly have no idea how certain probabilities involving particles could lead to humans possessing any form of free will. But feel free to enlighten me.n

  2. micha says:

    We don't shy away from echoing the religious right when it comes to Pro Choice vs Pro Life — even though Rav Moshe Feinstein advised to vote Pro Choice! — or numerous other issues. Much (most?) of the Orthodox community does see itself as part of the Religious Right. So why would it pose a problem on this issue?

    WADR I think the article omits the primary reason for this shift in how we discuss theodicy — the Shoah itself. If we in the post-Shoah era accept the notion that disasters come upon us due to our sins, how do we live with the the statement that implies about that generation?

    WRT chazal… yes, we do find them discussing which sins caused the destruction of the first Beis haMiqdash, which led to the loss of the second, what did Nadav and Avihu do to merit their death, what sin causes tzaraas etc… But looking at a meta-level, the gemara repeatedly portrays them as doing so unsucessfully. In none of these cases does the gemara provide a consensus; it always leaves us with a multiplicity of suggestions.

    Looking at Qol Dodi Dofeiq, the Rav tells us the Jewish question about the Holocaust is not “Why?” but “How does Hashem ask me to respond?” And we can read these gemaros as addressing that question as well. Not, “Why did Hashem let the Romans destroy the second Beis haMiqdash?” But, “What lessons should we take from the destruction? How can we use it to motivate improvement?” And even there, no one suggestion suffices.

    -micha

  3. Johnk815 says:

    I like this post, enjoyed this one regards for putting up. The goal of revival is conformity to the image of Christ, not imitation of animals. by Richard F. Lovelace. gfgekgdgffbf

  1. October 16, 2012

    […] For an in-depth discussion of this issue, see Reuven Rand, “On Bikinis and Earthquakes” http://www.kolhamevaser.com/2010/10/on-bikinis-and-earthquakes/ [2] Guide to the Perplexed I:23-25 [3] In an interesting example of this phenomenon, though not a […]

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