Recently a group of Jewish young earth creationist evangelists opened a blog called "slifkin-opinions". The name pays tribute to Rabbi Natan Slifkin (RNS), the well known advocate of "rationalist" Judaism that penned several books aspiring to reconcile traditional Orthodox Judaism with the findings of modern science. His books and the view points expressed therein were banned by many prominent sages about six years ago, who declared them heretical. As is typical with bans of this sort, the outcome brought much publicity to RNS, his books, and his ideas. This came as a shock to many practicing orthodox Jews, and in particular to those who came to observance as adults. That is, the ban revealed to many orthodox Jews that their beliefs about the natural world were completely unacceptable to the sages that they looked to for guidance in all matters of life great and small. It opened quite a can of worms.
The problem faced by many who never previously had even heard of RNS, was that they were left without practical guidance on what yes to believe to replace the notions that they now understood to be unacceptable to the sages. The problem was aggravated by the fact that RNS himself was and continued to be quite open and articulate about his view points - even garrulous. In contrast, those in support of the sages were mostly reticent other than stressing the fact that obedience to the sages is paramount. Meanwhile RNS re-published and augmented his banned books under the auspices of a new publisher that opposed the ban, as well as freely publishing articles on his website and regular postings on his blog rationalistjudaism.
This left the modern adherent to "charedi" Judaism in a quandary. While the will to submit to the guidance of the sages was freely acknowledged, it was impractical to adapt a world view that seemed illogical to the modern educated person. How was one to turn around his world view without simple, rational guidance on how to do so?
Thus it was with great expectations that I and some other truth seekers looked to the new blog for answers. The anti-RNS blog originated as a response. On RNS's blog, Dr. Isaac Betech (DIB) challenged RNS to a live strictly protocol debate. For whatever reason (each side points to the other as the culprit), the debate did not materialize. Instead, Dr. Betech along with colleagues Rabbi Simcha Coffer (RSC) and Doctor (of computer science) Yoel Ostroff (DYO) opened their blog. While Dr. Betech continued to be completely reticent of substantive issues despite our best attempts at prodding, and DYO chose mostly to ignore questions, we were pleased to see that RSC chose to actively engage both RNS himself as well as those posting questions and critiques on the blog's open comments section. Finally, we had someone to talk to!
Personally, I took the opportunity to engage RSC in a discussion not about the age of the universe, but rather the appearance of the age of the universe. I understood from the outset that to say that the universe existed for more than 6000 years would pose a theological problem. But who could deny that the universe appears to be quite older than that? RSC did and does.
For subject matter, I chose the King Clone creosote plant of the Mojave Desert. The choice was mostly random but also for simplicity. Scientists estimate the age of this plant to be 11,600 years and this is based on both carbon dating and growth rates of the plant. RSC explained that the physical laws of the universe as we know them today were only set into place 6000 years ago, and thus extrapolations from present day measurements exceeding this mark are erroneous. Armed with this information, we then see that there is not even an appearance of antiquity because the entire scientific exercise was based on the erroneous premise that the natural laws of the universe extend back in time further than 6000 years.
To be continued (b'eh)