Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rupert Murdoch will be an improvement

I don't read the Wall Street Journal editorial page. I've been convinced for a long time that they are uninterested in any evidence that might contradict their extreme ideology. A recent example shows that they are willing to distort truth. This has been adequately covered in many other blogs, among them:

It is pretty bad when Rupert Murdoch will be an improvement in credibility. Instead of bogus graphs we can look forward to drawings of nearly naked women.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Physician terrorists

Much surprise is being expressed at the fact that several of the suspects in the recent terrorist attacks in Britain are physicians. "How can someone trained to heal take lives?" we ask.

Unfortunately, medical training does not absolutely insure that one is a moral person. The infamous Nazi medical experiments were carried out by physicians. More recently, Dr. Che Guevara, a dermatologist, tried to spread violent revolution throughout Latin America. Dr. George Habash, a pediatrician from a Christian family, led one of the most violent Palestinian terrorist organizations, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. And Dr. Baruch Goldstein was a graduate of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, murdered 29 unarmed Arabs before he himself was killed by those he was attacking. And of course there have been occasional less publicized incidents of physicians killing their patients, surrupticiously, or publicly a la Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

As a faculty member at the last institution named above, I do my best to install values into my students. I am sure that the professors of all the people described above did as well. But sometimes we fail. Fortunately, examples like this are rare. But that they exist at all is depressing to me.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Why is the heter mechirah so controversial?

As we approach the upcoming shmitah year, interest natually focuses on the use of a rabbinic workaround to avoid the prohibition of the usual use of the produce of that year, as exemplified here.

The heter mechirah -- selling the land to a non-Jew -- was approved by Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spector, one of the great rabbinic authorities of the 19th century, and promoted by Rabbi Abraham Yitzchak Kook in the early 20th century. It is a workaround for a prohibition that according to many (most?) poskim is of rabbinic origin today because most Jews do not live in Eretz Yisrael. Yet it produces opposition that is loud, virulent, and not always polite.

I don't understand this. Nobody questions the the heter iska, or mechirat chametz, which are rabbinic workarounds of prohibitions which according to all opinions are in effect at all times in all places and originate from the torah. What is the justification for the virulent objection to the heter mechirah?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

We can tell other religions what they are to believe

Or at least, that is the impression from Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein in a recent address as reported here. He says that Jerusalem is "not holy to Muslims at all".

Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But that is up to Muslims to decide. Just as it is up to Christians to decide whether a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael is an important part of their religion or not.

Repeat after me: We have no business telling other religions what they are supposed to believe.

If we do, we can shortly expect them to tell us what to believe. This has happened in the past. The result is not good.

Krauss vs. Dawkins on science and religion

This month's Scientific American has an excerpt of a dialogue between Professors Lawrence M. Krauss and Richard Dawkins entitled, "Should Science Speak to Faith?" If I have time in the next few weeks, I may post my own (rather strongly opinionated) thoughts on the matter. But in the mean time, I strongly recommend the unabridged version of the conversation, available only onlne

Money quotes:

Dawkins: "It might be surprisingly hard to detect, by observation or experiment, whether we live in a god-free universe or a god-endowed one."

Krauss: "It is essential to intellectually separate science and religion. It may be true that faith is not based upon reason, but this fact would only make it bad science if the claims of faith were in general falsifiable."

My own views are much closer to those of Dr. Krauss.