Thursday, 4 January 2018

Rav Kook and Science

So here is an interesting lecture. Professor Tamar Ross speaks about her paper The Cognitive Value of Religious Truth Statements: Rabbi A. I. Kook and Postmodernism.

Professor Ross begins with the problem: what do we do, as men and women of faith, when new scientific theories/discoveries conflict with the accepted understanding of scripture?

She delineates 4 approaches:
  1. Why rely on science? Rationality is limited(Lubavich Rebbe)
  2. Allegory. Distinguish between content and presentation. Torah uses allegory to express itself. Torah's presentation is an allegory to scientific creation(Rambam on Aristotle's proof for eternal universe) Note: this also sounds like Professor Nathan Aviezer's "In the Beginning"
  3. Torah is not history/science book. It's narratives come to teach subjective truths, not empiric truths. Bereshit teaches us that we are dependent on a higher force, not a scientific account of creation(Yeshayahu Lebovich) Note: this sounds to me like Rabbi Natan Slifkin's The Challenge of Creation
  4. Scientific/moral insight as a form of continuing revelation. Beliefs are best chosen by world/people they create. Humanity must be ready for a particular revelation. Genesis is written in an epoch-neutral fashion(Rav Kook)

The rest of the lecture is selections from Rav Kook's writings that exemplify this fourth approach. This is worth listening to, but I won't go into detail here.

Professor Ross concludes by stating the relevance of this approach in our Postmodern age. In this time when objective truth seems so remote and we struggle with the question of what to believe, Rav Kook's approach can be a powerful tool for deciding which beliefs to promote.