Friday, June 16, 2006

When hashkafa subverts halacha: creationsim and the international date line

Because Gil linked to it, I ended up seeing this article on creationism on a site I usually self censor myself from reading. But having seen it, I can’t resist a comment. Here is a summary of Yated’s argument: science relies on inductive reasoning to determine the past from the laws of nature operating today. Since by (their) definition the laws of nature were radically different during the six days of creation, scientific inductive reasoning cannot tell us anything about the mystery or act of creation. M’meila, the entire science of cosmology is out the window. It seems to me that this argument amounts to cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. If the laws of nature did not exist during the period of ma’aseh braishis, or as Yated puts it,”that this six day period obeyed laws of quite a different nature than the physical ones that the world obeys now”, then how can halacha assume a normal 24 hour solar day existed, or the cycle of tekufos remains unchanged from the moment of the sun's creation, or that the sun’s orbit has been constant, or that any of the laws of solar and lunar astronomy existed pre-shabbos Braishis? Some examples: 1) the calculation of tekufos is based on assuming the same regular cycle of solar astronomy from the moment of the sun’s creation through our time (Rambam, Kiddush haChodesh 12:9); 2) the debate regarding the international date line hinges on determining where the sun was at its initial moment of creation and then assuming regular 24 hour days (see Chazon Ish’s ‘Kuntres 18 Sha’os’, O.C. siman 64 for a lengthy discussion, including his addressing a problem of one of the days of ma’aseh braishis missing time!); 3) birchas hachama is said every 28 years when the sun appears on the same day and place as at the moment of its creation (or something like that – because of messy calendar math this is not exact). Yated complains that if one assumes natural law was constant, “In our terminology, we would say that this guy "has to say a shiur" on the formation of the universe within the parameters of natural law. No mysterious periods allowed”. But Yated’s own calculation of 5766 as historical reality (and not a legal fiction employed for the sake of calculating the luach, which is how a non-literalist might view things) is arrived at by assuming a regular cycle of 24 hour days, seasonal tekufos, and regular laws of physics governing at least the solar system from the very moment of creation - no “mysterious periods” allowed. I guess one has to "say a shiur" to fit the natural law halacha ascribes to the earliest moment of creation with the hashkafic assertion that no such natural law existed. I don't look forward to it.


  1. jeffrey smith1:02 PM

    Which raises two questions.
    1) How do we determine the initial place and moment of the sun's creation, seeing that the text of the Torah itself does not place any real limits beyond saying it occurred sometime during day 4?
    2) Can the pertinent halacha be rephrased in terms of the sun's position at on ha-Shabbat ha-Rishon? {I suspect the answer is no, but I want to be sure.)

  2. 1) Because we know the date, day, and tekufah of the original moment of creation. The question is where on the globe the sun started, which determines the date line. 2) No, at least not according to the Kuzari or Ba'al haMaor that the Chazon Ish works with.

  3. So I guess you're also opposed to those who say that the six days of Creation were also millions of years, right?

  4. Gil, I don't see how you got that from what I wrote. I am simply observing that one needs to be consistent - if 5766 is literally true, than the laws of physics must have applied before the first shabbos of braishis or this number makes no sense and lots of halachos don't work.