I am breaking this off as a seperate post for clarity because the comments to the previous one seem to range far and wide of the main point. Here is the main idea in a nutshell:
Problem: you have a gemara which contradicts empirical evidence or common sense.
There can be only three possible solutions:
1) Accept the contradiction as legitimate and conclude that Chazal were wrong.
2) Accept the contradiction as legitimate and conclude that common sense or science is wrong.
3) Explain that Chazal and science are speaking of different aspects of reality and no contradiction exists.
Can someone please explain to me why 'rationally' option #1 is a better solution than option #3?
To use the example in the previous post, taken on the merits of the argument alone, why would you prefer to say Chazal held X about the sun and the secular scientists held Y, creating an irresolvable conflict, when you can just as easily say that Chazal said X speaking about pnimiyus and knew and would accept Y as true with respect to chitzoniyus, avoiding any conflict?
The advanatages of approach #3 are obvious. It preserves emunas chachamim, which given option #1 erodes, yet at the same time gives full legitimacy to scientific inquiry and its conclusions because that is not what Chazal were addressing. You can have your cake and eat it too!
Why in the world would anyone prefer to force a choice between competing truths rather than adopt an approach that acknowledges the truth of both?