A few thoughts on the R' Ahron Shechter video discussing whether it is appropriate to inquire into ma'aseh braishis. As by BIL pointed out elsewhere, the comments made by R" Shechter echo the Maharal in his intro to Gevuros Hashem where he writes that the it is not for us to inquire into the process of creation. The fact a contemporary Rosh Yeshiva espouses such a position should at least give someone pause before taking the opposing view, kal v'chomer if that R"Y is echoing Maharal. Sadly, from what I read of these issues elsewhere, the speeding train that rushes to dismiss Chazal in light of science does not pause for anyone.
The Seridei Eish, a posek who may have been more open to embracing modernity, has an interesting tshuvah (I:113) where he points out that two of the necessary ingredients for kinyan Torah seem contradictory. These two traits are emunas chachamim and pilpul chaveirim. The Seridei Eish writes that only by trusting in the correctness of Chazal, emunas chachamim, will one be motivated to struggle to uncover the meaning in Chazal even where their teachings appear to contradict other disciplines or one's own strongly held opinion. On the other hand, blind trust and obedience without thought and investigation, without pilpul, leaves one with superficial understanding that does not reflect or capture the deep truths of Torah. A balance is needed. Many of those who champion scientific truth as superior to the knowledge of Chazal in my opinion err by giving far too much weight to pilpul and far too little weight to emunas chachamim.
The greatest error of many who seek to resolve contradictions between science or history and Torah is misframing of the question. The question to be asked is NOT whether espousing a certain belief or interpretation makes on a heretic or contradicts whatever list of ikkarim one subscribes to (belief in 13 ikkarim can no longer to be taken for granted, as some people feel that they can say kim li like some other list in Rishonim). One can concoct many wonderful versions of Judaism that keep to 613 mitzvos and are a hodge-podge of ideas and hashkafos that are built on a diyuk in a Rishon here and a shita of an Acharon there, etc. but which bear no resemblance to the dogma and practice of Jews in any community in our history. It's not the negation of cardinal belief which is the test of Torah true hashkafa. The real test is whether the conclusions confirm with the pattern of belief which our mesorah and people have held dear for generations. So what if there is an odd R' Avraham ben haRambam or a Pachad Yitzchak out there in our literature if there is a strong mesorah that runs contrary to these views?
But who is to judge what mesorah consists of? I honestly don't see what the confusion is in this regard. R' Akiva Eiger is an acharon; were I to fomulate an opinion on an issue, I too would be an "acharon" -- does anyone in their right mind think my opinion is worth 2 cents compared with R' Akiva Eiger's shikul hada'as, no matter how many ra'ayos I have or proofs to my position? Anyone who has sat in a beis medrash knows that even to have such a hava amina is ridiculous. When R' Baruch Ber would say shiur and answer up a R' Akiva Eiger he would say that his shiur is just a hava amina of R' Akiva Eiger but should not be taken as an absolute conclusion because R' Akiva Eiger said otherwise. Rav Solovetichik (Shiurim l'Zecher Aba Mori, Two Types of Mesorah) taught that there are certain great chachami hador who are ba'alei mesorah. They are not just poskim who decide what is permitted or prohibited, but they are responsible for setting the tone and tenor of Judaism and passing it to the next generation of leaders. R' Akiva Eiger, the Ktzos, R' Chaim Brisker -- these are ba'alei mesorah not just because of an insightful particular tshuvah or chiddush, but because they established what Jewish tradition in all its flavor means and represents. That line of ba'alei mesorah continues to our own day. Whether it is R' Elyashiv, R' Chaim Kanievsky, etc., there are people who klal yisrael look to as the flagbearers of tradition.
What troubles me is that many many of the comments on this issue are not along the lines of Moshe emes and Chazal are emes but in this one detail we have a kashe and need to rely on a da'as yachid or miyut opinion. Rather, many of those who comment asssume 1) a free-for-all attitude is acceptable in areas of hashkafa where psak in not binding; 2) if it doesn't violate an ikkar emunah, then anything goes; 3) scientific evidence always trumps belief. At least these folks are honest. They don't need a Pachad Yitzchak or a R' Avraham ben haRambam. They don't need any achronim or Rishonim. The hold that mesorah is simply not a bar plugta with modern science.
If I were to insist on washing netilas yadayim before kiddush on Friday night because I insist that the Rama is right no matter what anyone else tells me and despite centuries on minhag to the contrary in most Jewish families (Yekkes excluded), kulei alma lo pligi that I have crossed a line in psak halacha and am being poreitz geder on minhagim. But if I go ahead an insist on uprooting a tenet of mesorah that contradicts what I take to be empirical evidence, right down to the assumption that the text of Torah was given to Moshe on Sinai, then that is "just" hashkafa there is no problem. Olam hafuch ra'isi when a detail in netilas yadayim carries more weight than fundemental beliefs.
I am fully aware of the point Michael Collins makes in his book The Language of G-d that by denying scientific fact we place greater obstacles in the way of faith and reduce belief to superstition. But I am also aware of the fact that Collins as a non-Jew has no mesorah or concept of emunas chachamim with which to contend. He may spin his Bible any way he pleases; we do not have the same flexibility.
So what do I propose to do with scientific or historical evidence that overturns mesorah or belief? Answer: I don't have answers for everything, but I can live with those kashes. Read up on Keats' negative capability. There are mysteries and unexplained phenomena in science and history, yet a scientist will stick with a theory that has most of the evidence in its favor and live with those questions until further discovery resolves them or the theory is changed. The mesorah is the best theory we have to explain reality.
Bottom line: instead of sweeping statements that reject ikkarei emunah and posit new ideas about mesorah that are quite simply wrong, I would rather keep the "old" system and use a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer to address these issues. Admittedly the former approach in one fell swoop resolves all problems in these areas, but ironically that one feel swoop destroys the very fabric of mesorah which it purports to defend.