Readers’ Feedback – Tables Turned on T.

NOTE: Tables Turned is commenting on my exchange with T., which is available here.

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Tables Turned wrote:

Just because Resuscitation of the Dead violates the natural order in a dramatic fashion does not mean that the Dor Deah couldn’t have grasped it.  If they can grasp the splitting of the Sea, and the creation of the universe ex nihilo, to some extent at least, then they could grasp RotD, too, to perhaps the same degree. Now, did I just critique the Rambam? Not really. I think that his definition of “grasp” is different from yours. Using his definition, I think he would also say that the Dor Deah wouldn’t have been able to grasp bacteria, or millions of years, either.

 My Response:

 Let us first review. The party making definitive claims is Dr. Schroeder, as follows:

 On page 129 of Genesis & the Big Bang:

 Because it would have been unrealistic to expect a mass of newly freed slaves 3400 years ago at Sinai to grasp the meaning of bacteria and microalgae…

 This is a specific statement about the ability of the Exodus generation to grasp the meaning of very small forms of life i.e. bacteria and microalgae.

 On page 157 of Genesis & the Big Bang:

 Can mankind comprehend billions of years? Not likely today and even less likely at the time of Moses.

 This is a specific statement about the ability of the Exodus generation to grasp the meaning of long stretches of time. There are two possibilities regarding these specific claims – either they are self-evident, in which case one need not substantiate them; or they are not self-evident, in which case one must justify them.

 It is clear that Dr. Schroeder’s claims about bacteria and billions of years are not self-evident. As such, one is entitled to treat Dr. Schroeder’s claims with scepticism, until such time as he provides adequate explanations as to why the Exodus Generation would not be able to understand the concepts of bacteria and billions of years. I made this clear in my exchange with T.:

 Is it self-evident that the generation of the Exodus would not have been able to understand bacteria and billions of years? I do not think so. If so, on whom does the onus of proof rest? Dr. Schroeder does not provide a shred of evidence for his contention. Furthermore, he does not describe what would count as evidence.

The crucial point is that, notwithstanding any argument made by Tables Turned, the claim made in Genesis and the Big Bang regarding the intellectual capabilities of the Exodus Generation is unsubstantiated.

Tables Turned wrote:

 Just because Resuscitation of the Dead violates the natural order in a dramatic fashion does not mean that the Dor Deah couldn’t have grasped it.

 My Response:

I never wrote that the Exodus Generation could not have grasped this concept. I was commenting on a specific statement of Maimonides. The point is that Dr. Schroeder cannot convincingly use that statement as support for his claims. Resuscitation of the Dead is an event witnessed by a handful of exceptional people in history, and even then, in total privacy (I am referring to prophets such as Elijah and Elisha). Maimonides says that to the nation as a whole, this would seem an outlandish concept. This is a far cry from bacteria. In all periods of history, people were aware that there is a vast spectrum of sizes of creatures, from bulls and camels down to cats, worms and fleas. Why should we think that the ancients would not understand the concept of even smaller creatures?

Tables Turned wrote:

 If they can grasp the splitting of the Sea…

 My Response:

 Grasp is the wrong verb here. The Exodus Generation experienced the splitting of the sea. This, of course, is a different kettle of fish. Something that one lives through is experienced on a completely different level to an intellectual concept which one merely contemplates.

 Tables Turned wrote:

 I think that his definition of “grasp” is different from yours. Using his definition, I think he would also say that the Dor Deah wouldn’t have been able to grasp bacteria, or millions of years, either.

 My Response:

Tables Turned believes that Maimonides’ definition of grasp is different to my definition, but he does not actually tell us what that definition is! How can he argue that my definition of any concept differs from that of Maimonides, when he has not told us what Maimonides’ definition is?! There is nothing to respond to in this case.

The bottom line: Like Dr. Schroeder before him, Tables Turned does not present any evidence that would lead us to believe that the Exodus Generation would be unable to grasp the concept of bacteria. Nor does Tables Turned tell us how he understood Maimonides’ conception of the intellectual abilities of the Exodus Generation.

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