I initially got interested in Judaism through exposure to the [Torah] codes, the first cause argument and the works of Dr. Schroeder etc. At some point, I started finding reasonable critiques of these different approaches which I found disheartening (I showed Dr. Schroeder’s book to a physicist friend of mine [PhD from Rutgers and is doing a post-doc at SLAC] who was very sceptical and somewhat critical of it). B”H I came across Rabbi Gottlieb’s website which has clarified a lot of these things for me. It is for this reason (among others) that I think a critique such as yours is so valuable. People often claim how works such as [Dr.] Schroeder’s, even if not ‘entirely’ accurate, have a big impact in kiruv. In my case, it almost had the opposite effect! I think it’s a big risk when people’s foundations of emuna rest on evidence such as this. There are those that might claim that this type of evidence will only serve as an entry point, but in addition to some of the points you make, if people start finding out that this evidence is at the least very questionable, if not outright wrong, what kind of impact will it have on their view of the other reliable evidence they do have?!
Thank you for your comments. As I pointed out in my exchange with Mr. Jonathan Bash and with “Shalom”, it is the truthfulness and reliability of the arguments, and not the author’s motives, which are primary. Here is an excerpt from my correspondence with “Shalom”:
Can you imagine a scenario where Dr. Schroeder (and others) may have possibly realised the “lay nature” of their publications would be littered with the kind of inaccuracies that you have mentioned and published notwithstanding this fact; with a greater good in mind? (I.e. best intentions Kiruv in a world of competing sound bites, where the means justifies the end).
חז”ל tell us that the seal of הקב”ה is truth (מסכת שבת דף נה.). I am not interested in propaganda – my objective is to ascertain and disseminate the truth. On a practical level too, attempts to do good through deceptive means invariably backfire.
I do think that it is essential to filter the material presented to בעלי תשובה. There is no doubt material which they are not in a position to swallow. I am guided by a point which I heard in the name of Rabbi Simcha Wasserman. He used the analogy of nursing back to health a holocaust survivor in a liberated concentration camp. You may dilute the food, but it must be food, not some other substance, that you give the person.
No authority holds that we are entitled to misuse Torah sources in the service of kiruv.