Volume 9 Number 37
                       Produced: Tue Sep 28  9:47:16 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Warren Burstein]
Carbon-14 Dating
         [Finley Shapiro]
Cosmology (was: Dinosaurs and Kashrut)
         [Benjamin Svetitsky]
         [Meylekh Viswanath]
Evolution and the Mabul
         [Robert Israel]
Women's Prayer Groups
         [Janice Gelb]
Women's Prayer Groups - Rav's Opinion
         [Aliza Berger]


From: <warren@...> (Warren Burstein)
Date: Sun, 26 Sep 93 07:34:35 -0400
Subject: Re: Agendas

Steve Ehrlich writes:

>I think its doubtful though that Rav Moshe would have called women
>Tephila groups such a "need". For things like this that are Halachicly
>optional and come from outside traditional channels, I think the
>evidence indicates he would have ruled against them.

The teshuva permitting such groups was written by Rabbi Tendler on Rav
Moshe's stationary.  I have no idea what precisely this means about
Rav Moshe's views, but I do not think that it is evidence that Rav
Moshe would have ruled against them.

The copy of the teshuva that I saw belonged to Rabbi Sheer of Columbia

 |warren@      But the ***
/ nysernet.org is not worried at all.


From: Finley Shapiro <Finley_Shapiro@...>
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 93 13:49:49 -0400
Subject: Carbon-14 Dating

Barry Kingsbury wrote:

>There is a contradiction between using Carbon-14 dating techniques to
>establish how old something is and a biblical statment of how old the
>universe is. If you wish to believe that all the evidence that the earth
>is much older than approximately 6000 years was put here to test
>man's faith, you have the right to believe in your 'truth'.  . . .

I agree with Barry on his main point.  However, please note that the
half-life of carbon-14 is 5730 years.  Scientific evidence for the age
of the earth is based on other, longer lived, isotopes.  The same is
true for the age of dinosaur fossils, as current estimates are that they
became extinct about 60 million years ago (about 1e4 half-lifes of
carbon-14).  It is interesting that the "creationist" estimate of the
age of the earth is so close to the half-life of carbon-14.

On a lighter note, the Jewish year 5730 is within the lifetime of many
readers of mail.jewish.  It corresponds to the secular year 1969-70.
Does anybody know of appropriate events related to carbon which took
place that year?  Or, perhaps somebody has a more accurate value for the
half-life.  Note that 5729 was the first recorded landing of
carbon-based life on the moon.

Happy Sukkoth to everybody,
Finley Shapiro


From: Benjamin Svetitsky <bqs@...>
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 93 04:52:18 -0400
Subject: Cosmology (was: Dinosaurs and Kashrut)

I had my say on the validity of cosmology during the extended
discussion in mail-jewish in June/July 1992.  Still, I would like to
address briefly two statements made here recently.

First is Michael Allen's amazing (considering the source) assertion
that homogeneity and isotropy are "unjustified and untestable
assertions."  I don't know what he means by unjustified, but why
"untestable"?  Surely we can be more sophisticated than demanding that
I make a trip to Alpha Centauri to measure the speed of light there.
In fact, homogeneity has exactly the same standing as any other
assumption of physical theory.  The theory _as a whole_ stands or falls
on its experimental success.  Modern cosmology -- based on homogeneity
-- is remarkably successful.  As recent examples I point out the data
concerning large-scale flows and the IRAS galaxy counts, which give a
deceleration parameter (Omega) close to one; more spectacular is the
COBE measurement of fluctuations in the microwave background.  Both
these results are in beautiful agreement with inflationary cosmology,
which assumes that MANY details of physical theory are valid everywhere
and, what's more, were valid at extremely early times.  Now if you
prefer to believe that all these data, just like dinosaur bones, were
put in place by the Creator just to trap us, feel free; this is what,
last summer, I called "relativity of fact and fiction," denial of the
senses God gave us in favor of wishful thinking.

Next is Hayim Hendeles' observation that evolutionary biologists
disagree over many aspects of evolution theory.  This is typical of the
reaction of a non-scientist to the bewildering give-and-take of
scientific discourse.  The Gemara says, "Kinat sofrim tarbeh
chochmah."  If this is true in Torah, it is true all the more in
science, where the Creator did not see fit to give us signposts besides
our senses and intellect.

A personal note.  Mr. Hendeles writes, "... modern day science does not
and cannot posit the existance (sic) of a Creator...".  Permit me
humbly to offer myself -- a modern-day scientist -- as a counter-example.
I can and I do.

Ben Svetitsky    (temporarily in galut)    <bqs@...>
School of Physics and Astronomy
Tel Aviv University


From: Meylekh Viswanath <viswanath@...>
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 93 15:31:54 -0400
Subject: Evolution

Barry Kingsbury writes:

>In the scientific community, the theory
>of evolution is accepted as scientific truth.  (What is argued in
>scientific circles is the mechanisms by which evolution occurs;
>there is no challenge to the underlying construct. None whatsoever.)

I have two comments.  First, I'd like to point readers to R. Tendler's
recent article on evolution and Torah in the recent issue of Jewish
Action.  He certainly doesn't take a 'creationist' (i.e. nonscientific)
attitude, but nevertheless disagrees with the theory of evolution (as
best I could make out, he disagrees with the construct).

Second, a basic prediction of the theory of evolution as understood till
recently, was that there was a gradual change in organisms, leading to
the development of new species.  From the 'usual' scientific point of
view, one would then have gone out to look for fossil evidence of this
gradual change.  If such evidence was discovered, one would have
'accepted' (or more precisely, failed to reject) the theory of
evolution.  Consistent failure to find such evidence, on the other hand,
would normally lead one to (effectively) reject the theory, or at least
start looking for another theory.  Instead, we find that many scientists
continue to accept the theory, but instead tinker with details.

This is not necessarily unscientific.  After all, one has to choose
which of the set of assumptions underlying a given theory to reject if
the predictions of the theory seem to be rejected.  However, the
attitude that the 'construct' of evolution is a scientific truth does
not seem to be warranted.  If pushed, one may even characterize the
unwillingness to reject the construct as a 'religious' belief.  The fact
that there are few scientists that will challenge the construct of
evolution is no support for the 'truth' of evolution.


P.S. I don't believe in the theory that Hashem created appearances to
test our faith.


From: Robert Israel <israel@...>
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 93 20:33:42 -0400
Subject: Re: Evolution and the Mabul

I think there are lots of problems with the Mabul besides the Australian
fauna (and those of many isolated groups of islands).

I'm not a geneticist, but it seems to me that the amount of genetic
diversity in most animal species is difficult to explain if they only
had one pair of ancestors ~5000 years ago.  Any gene would have at most
4 possible alleles (each of the original ancestors having two copies),
except for those arising by mutation in the last few millenia.  The Y
chromosome would have only one possible allele per gene, except for

I thought of this after reading a Scientific American article a while
ago on the subject of the cheetah.  One reason why this animal is so
endangered is that it has very little genetic diversity.  One possible
hypothesis to explain this low diversity is that the cheetahs we have
now are the descendants of a very small number of survivors of a
population crash a few thousand years ago.  In other words, the cheetah
is one of the few animals that are consistent with the Mabul.  But other
species don't have these problems.  Why not?

Robert Israel                            <israel@...>
Department of Mathematics             
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Y4


From: <Janice.Gelb@...> (Janice Gelb)
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 93 04:52:32 -0400
Subject: Re: Women's Prayer Groups

In mail.jewish digest #31, Aliza Berger says:

> Eitan Fiorino writes about women's prayer groups:
> >A final point which no doubt adds to the controversy is the similarity, 
> >in outward appearance, of women's tefila to women's and egalitarian
> >"minyanim," and the existence of various forms of feminist women's
> >prayer services in "liberal" Judaism.  
> I have yet to hear of a "women's minyan" that did not include men. Since 
> egalitarian minyanim consist of both men and women, they don't look
> similar to a women's tefilah.  A liberal service would not likely be using
> the Orthodox prayerbook as the women's tefilah does.  

I think we need to be careful with our adjectives here. Just because an
egalitarian minyan may be "liberal" in one sense does not mean that
they are not likely to be following the traditional prayer service or
using an Orthodox siddur. (Whatever the latter may mean -- I doubt 
that all "Orthodox" services use the same siddur.) In fact, the two
egalitarian minyanim with which I am most familiar do use traditional

Janice Gelb                  | (415) 336-7075     
<janiceg@...>   | "A silly message but mine own" (not Sun's!) 


From: <A_BERGER@...> (Aliza Berger)
Date: Sun, 26 Sep 1993 14:48:33 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Women's Prayer Groups - Rav's Opinion

>Lenny Oppenheimer writes:

>I do not know what Rav Soloveitchik would have said about the women's
>tefilla groups.  But this essay makes it clear that he felt any innovation
>in the basic structure of Tefilla was against the basic gestalt of what
>Tefilla is:  An opportunity to have an audience with the King of Kings,
>that had a very specific protocol and procedure.  That procedure has always
>required ten males in order to say Kdusha, Kaddish, Borchu, and to publicly
>read the Torah.  It would seem that the idea of basing an innovation on
>human needs, however sincere, rather than on the limited dispensation we've
>been given to address the Almighty with an "act of impudence", is
>questionable and deserves all the "great scrutiny" that David ponders.

Perhaps it is better to research what a rabbi actually said or wrote
before trying to extrapolate from other views of his.

The following information is from the book "Women at Prayer" by Rabbi
Avi Weiss:

"In the early 1970's, Rav Soloveitchik indicated to some rabbis that
under certain guidelines, women's tefilah groups are permitted.  On one
occasion, the Rav carefully detailed the format of women's tefilah
groups, and suggested substitute texts for the devarim she'be'kedushah
[portions of the prayers that can only be recited with a minyan present]
that women would omit in their prayer groups."...  Rabbi Moshe Meiselman
was told by Rav Solovietchik that he is opposed to the recitation of
birkot ha-torah [blessings before and after reading of the Torah] in
women's prayer groups... "Yet Rabbi Kenneth Auman remarked that Rabbi
Moshe Meiselman quotes Rav Soloveitchik as being opposed to women's
prayer groups." ...Rabbi Meiselman himself, who is opposed to women's
prayer groups, had been careful never to say that the Rav was opposed to
the groups, just to one specific practice.  However he is quoted by
others as the authority presenting the Rav's opposition to the groups
per se.

Aliza Berger


End of Volume 9 Issue 37