Sunday, October 25, 2009

I highly recommend this:

Dear Friends,

Attached is a comprehensive book review of Genesis and the Big Bang, by Dr. Gerald Schroeder. This book review is also a useful introduction to the Torah and science interface. I hope you will find it illuminating. Please feel free to distribute it to interested parties. It is also posted at


Yoram Bogacz

Monday, October 19, 2009

More on Nobel

From a reader:

If you didn't know off hand, Norman Angell wrote a book called "The Great Illusion." Basically, he argues that increased trade relations among European powers make future wars impossible.

There are people who make the same argument today including noted atheist writer Michael Shermer. He gets all science-y and talks about oxytocin and whatnot.

Anyway, Angell's book came out right before World War I.

Not to be dissuaded from awarding their prize to Angell, the Nobel Committee gave him the prize in 1933, because, after all, THIS TIME IT WILL WORK. You know what happened after that.

So, 2009 is not, by any stretch, the first time that the Nobel Committee gave their prize for wishful thinking...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize

A great article:

The Wall Street Journal

OCTOBER 14, 2009

Pop quiz: What do Bertha von Suttner, Henri La Fontaine, Ludwig Quidde, Norman Angell, Arthur Henderson, Eisaku Sato, Alva Myrdal and Joseph Rotblat have in common?

Answer: Barack Obama.

If you're drawing blanks on most of these names, don't be hard on yourself: They're just some of the worthies of yesteryear who were favored with a Nobel Peace Prize before disappearing into the footnotes of history.

On the other hand, if you're among those who think Mr. Obama's Nobel was misjudged and premature, not to say absurd, then you really know nothing about the values and thinking that have informed a century of prize giving. Far from being an aberrant choice, President Obama was the ideal one, Scandinavianally speaking.

The peace Nobel is a much misunderstood prize. With the exception of a few really grotesque picks (Le Duc Tho, Rigoberta Menchú, Yasser Arafat), a few inspired ones (Carl von Ossietzky, Norman Borlaug, Andrei Sakharov, Mother Teresa, Lech Walesa, Aung San Suu Kyi) and some worthy if obvious ones (Martin Luther King, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk), most of the prize winners draw from the obscure ranks of the sorts of people the late Oriana Fallaci liked to call "the Goodists."

Who are the Goodists? They are the people who believe all conflict stems from avoidable misunderstanding. Who think that the world's evils spring from technologies, systems, complexes (as in "military-industrial") and everything else except from the hearts of men, where love abides. Who mistake wishes for possibilities. Who put a higher premium on their own moral intentions than on the efficacy of their actions. Who champion education as the solution, whatever the problem. Above all, the Goodists are the people who like to be seen to be good.

Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler, who won the Peace Prize in 1931, was a Goodist. In 1910 he wrote that "to suppose that men and women into whose intellectual and moral instruction and upbuilding have gone the glories of the world's philosophy and art and poetry and religion . . . are to fly at each others' throats to ravage, to kill, in the hope of somehow establishing thereby truth and right and justice is to suppose the universe to be stood upon its apex."

The First World War, which began four years later, rendered a less charitable judgment on the benefits of moral and intellectual instruction. Yet Butler later became a leading campaigner for the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing war as "an instrument of national policy." This monument to hope, which won U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg a Nobel in 1929 (France's Aristide Briand had already won it in 1926 for the equally feckless Locarno Pact), was immediately ratified by dozens of countries, including Japan—which invaded Manchuria in 1931; and Italy—which invaded Abyssinia in 1935; and Germany—which invaded Poland in 1939.

Characteristically, the Nobel Committee awarded no Peace Prizes for most of the Second World War: not to Franklin Roosevelt for turning America into an arsenal for democracy; not to Winston Churchill for rallying Britain against the Nazi onslaught; not to Charles de Gaulle for keeping the flame of a free France alive; not to the U.S. Army Rangers for scaling the heights of Pointe du Hoc on a June morning in 1944; not to Douglas MacArthur for turning Japan into a country at peace with itself and its neighbors.

These were the soldiers and statesmen who did more than anyone else to assure the survival of freedom in the 20th century. Being Goodists, however, the Nobel Committee chose instead to lavish its honors on people like the wan New England pacifist Emily Greene Balch (in 1946), the tedious British disarmament obsessive Philip Noel-Baker (1959) and the Irish antinuclear campaigner and Lenin Prize Winner Seán MacBride (1974).

These names don't exactly spring to mind as having made a lasting and genuine contribution to world peace. Nor, one suspects, will history lavish its highest honors on Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Wangari Maathai, Mohamed ElBaradei, Al Gore or Martti Ahtisaari, to name some of this decade's winners. They are merely the Frank Kelloggs and Seán MacBrides of the future.

Which brings us, at last, to this year's prize winner.

Typical of the laments about Mr. Obama's Nobel is that he's done nothing yet to deserve it. But what, really, did most of the other Goodists do before they won their prizes? Mr. Obama, at least, got himself elected president, the first man to do so on explicitly Goodist terms: hope, change, diplomacy, disarmament, internationalism. He is, so to speak, the son Alfred Nobel never had (minus the dynamite fortune), the best and most significant spokesman for everything the Peace Prize has stood for these 108 years.

So let there be no doubt that the Nobel Committee did well in choosing Mr. Obama. What this portends for the kind of peace and security that has been bequeathed to us by the exertions of such non-Nobelists as Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan is another question.

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New Year

A beautiful sentiment beautifully expressed, by Daniel Freedman:

There once was a man whose name was Ben-dordia who was a little crazy
A harsh word, did someone foretell, that made him feel queasy.
Looking to the mountains, the heavens, and the earth;
He asked the sun and the moon and the stars and constellations; to
help see his worth.

But all to no avail.

He cried, and wept and felt remorse,
His feelings of sorrow, sincere and heartfelt to the core,
His prayers did heaven endorse,
and he returned to his Maker once more.

Now he was truly forgiven for his act,
in one moment, it’s a fact,
as much has been said,
I pray for you instead;
on the day of kingship, judgment and shofar,
I would like to pray for your well-being,
health, happiness, peace and prosperity,
and all should be good, in all that you are doing,
with success and joy should be with you, with all sincerity.

Lots of Love and Warm Wishes for the coming year.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb <>
(no subject)4 messages
Dear Rabbi Gottlieb. Hope you are well. I once transported you from one shiur to another in Manchester a few years ago. Anyway, I was just listening to a lecture about absolute proof. At one part of the shiur you mentioned that we don’t base life decisions on absolute proof, which I can understand. However, at another part of the shiur you mention that there is no way one can ever have absolute proof and you gave as an example that a DNA test could be switched or falsfified. But my question is - if you were competent in carrying out DNA tests yourself, you surely could have absolute proof? Or is this incorrect? Looking forward to your response,

You could make a mistake in your application of the process.
-- If you have no objections, I may post this letter on my blog - minus all identification.Kol tuv [All the best]Dovid Gottlieb

And I did it 1000 times and every time it matched!?

And you made the same mistake 1000 times. [This has happened very often in intellectual history - e.g. fallacious proofs repeated for centuries until the mistake was discovered].

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A wonderful book of chizuk - see Although taken from the author's workshops for women, the inspiration is avaiable for men as well.
Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb

Why does proving that something has an end ultimately prove that it has no beginning, and vice verse? Can something not philosophically/hypothetically be born into existence and never cease to exist, or cease to exist but that had been around forever beforehand?

Thank you,

Why does proving that something has an
perhaps you meant :"no" here?
end ultimately prove that it has no beginning, and vice verse? Can something not philosophically/hypothetically be born into existence and never cease to exist, or cease to exist but that had been around forever beforehand?
The ancient philosophers thought that something that is composed of parts cannot exist forever and must have a beginning. Our sources of course reject this - G-d can create as He pleases; in particular He can make something that has a beginning but no end.

Thank you for your response. Allow me to rephrase. I have heard people say that since such and such a process clearly ends, it must have at some started and therefore cannot go back infinitely. Can this be proven?
Not without the assumption of the ancients. For example, Plato thought that the universe is infinitely old because god [who also is infinitely old] has always been creating it. It is then possible that god has been creating, say, squirrels, at all times in the past, and then decides to stop creating hem forever.

If you have no objections, I may post this letter on my blog - minus all identification.

Kol tuv [All the best]

Dovid Gottlieb