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October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘science’

Why I Believe…

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

I am not surprised by the level of commitment that skeptics have with respect to their views. In my post Keeping the Faith there are 249 comments as of this writing. Much of it has been a back and forth between Rabbi Bechhofer and those who challenge the traditional beliefs of Judaism: some from atheists; some from skeptics; some who do believe at some level but have decided that the events described in the Torah could not have happened since there is overwhelming evidence that they did not… and instead are allegorical.

I must admit that these issues have troubled me as well. I believe that some of them have simple answers; others have complex answers, and some have no apparent answers at all. But I also believe that the Torah is telling us the truth. How is that possible for a rationalist like myself? First because I do try to find rational explanations where-ever I can. But second is a reason that skeptics will probably not accept.

There is no one reason for me to hang my hat on. There is no definitive and clear proof that I can point to and say: this is it. None of the ‘proofs’ – stated by themselves are convincing. I am just as skeptical as… well frankly… the skeptics! I am by nature a skeptic.

But when one takes the totality of all the evidence and arguments in favor of the truth of Judaism which includes its long history of survival against all odds – my intuition takes over. I believe because my intuition compels me to do so. My rational nature which would normally succumb to all the evidence against Judaism succumbs instead to my intuitive senses.

(I am not going to go into detail about the evidence and the arguments. I have written several posts on that subject in the past. But they are mostly well known and there is no mystery about them. I am not trying to hide them or mislead. They are just not the point of this post and I don’t want to spend any time on those details.)

One may ask why all the evidence against the truth of Judaism doesn’t lead my intuition in the other direction. After all science doesn’t lie. Bible criticism makes a lot of sense. Archaeological finds makes things even more difficult… as does many other clear contradictions to our beliefs.

I believe because in every single case these contradictions have resolutions and questions have answers. Some are clear and some are only possible or even implausible. But in most cases they are at least possible. And in those cases where I can’t even see a possible answer – that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I am therefore not forced to conclude that because of all the science and bible critics – that Judaism isn’t true. I have a choice to believe and my rationalist mind does not prevent me from using my intuitive mind.

Some might call this Emunah Peshuta – simple belief. Perhaps. But it is not blind belief. I am not a blind believer. However, I can understand why someone would call my belief in the truth of Judaism blind.

I suppose that at some point one does have to take that “leap of faith.” But it is not a blind leap. It is not a giant leap. It is an intuitive belief based on evaluating two conflicting sets of criteria, one that requires a conclusion based on the rational and difficult questions which do not seem to have satisfactory answers. The other is the totality of other perhaps unrelated evidence of Judaism’s truth. That evidence that does not necessarily address all the problems. Questions may remain – and they do for me. But at the same time it is hard to deny all the evidence in favor of Judaism. My own intuition impels me to believe rather than deny.

As I said – I realize that this will probably not satisfy the skeptics. They would probably refute every single piece of evidence that I would posit in favor of belief. But they cannot refute the totality of all that evidence. Nor can they successfully turn me into a skeptic.

Israel Welcomes 300 Int’l Asian Science Prodigies

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Over 300 young science geniuses from across Asia and the Pacific participated in the sixth Asian Science Camp (ASC) in Jerusalem this past week. Originally initiated by a number of Nobel Prize Laureates in the sciences from Eastern Asia, it was Israel’s first time hosting the science camp, which has been held in a different Asian country each year for the past six years.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has been marking Israel’s diplomatic relations with Asia this past year, in cooperation with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the ORT educational network, organized the week long science camp for the last week of August. High school and university students arrived from 23 different countries– including nations with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations such as Indonesia.

Shannon Canumara, 16, of Jakarta, Indonesia, described the science camp as fascinating. “The lectures have been fantastic. It’s very different from a high school environment, because we get to learn about science not only from textbooks. We actually get to question the professors and their theories,” Canumara told Tazpit News Agency.

Her Indonesian counterpart, Vinsen, 17, added that “even though our country does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, everyone here was so welcoming to us. I hope that someday Indonesia will agree to establish diplomatic relations with Israel in the future.”

Some of the largest student delegations came from China, India, Korea and Japan, while smaller delegations from Turkmenistan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand also participated.

The Israeli delegates, who were chosen according to a strict criterion of academic excellence in science, consisted of 35 Jewish and Arab students from across the country including periphery cities like Karmiel and Yeruham, as well as east Jerusalem and Umm al-Fahm. The science camp featured lectures from five Nobel Prize Laureates in the Sciences from Israel and abroad, including one of the founders of ASC, Taiwan’s Professor Lee Yuan-Ti, Nobel Prize Laureate for Chemistry, as well as Prof Makoto Kobayashi (physics) from Japan, and Israel’s Professor Aharon Chechanover (medical-chemistry) and Professor Israel Uman (game theory) and US Professor Roger Kornberg (biology).

Liangjin Zhao, a second year university student in Beijing, studying electronic engineering, was very impressed with the organization of the science camp. “Although we’ve had little free time, the best part has been to network and make new friends from all over the world. There is such a great combination of people here” Zhao said. Sitting beside her was Noy Moisa, a student at Hebrew University High School of Jerusalem, who agreed wholeheartedly. “We already started connecting with the students via Facebook and e-mail before the camp even began,” Moisa said.

Rawan Mahajna of Um Al Fahm, 19, who plans to study medicine, said the science camp was an opportunity for “connecting minds together and meeting people who share similar science interests.”

“Everyone here speaks the language of science, which goes beyond skin color, religion, background, and politics. I’m really thankful for this experience,” Mahajna said.

“The whole concept of this science camp was to show that science has no boundaries,” said Reut Inon-Berman, one of the organizers of the Asian Summer Camp. “Together, we can get that much further in this field.”

San Diego Jewish Teen Wins Google Science Prize

Monday, July 30th, 2012

An eighth-grader from the San Diego Jewish Academy won a science prize at the second annual Google Science Fair competition.

Jonah Kohn, 14, won a $25,000 scholarship for his device that uses tactile sound to enhance music for people with hearing loss.

“In essence they said that it has given them the best perception of classical music that they’ve heard since they lost their hearing,” Kohn said, ABC News reported.

Kohn was one of five finalists in his age group out of the 15 finalists at the fair. The Google Science Fair received thousands of entries from more than 100 countries worldwide.

The Secret to Buying the Right Stocks

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

What kind of investor do you think you are? Do you try to time the market and jump in at the right minute? Or are you a more cautious kind of person who spends hours researching market performance before you consider buying or selling anything?

In fact, it doesn’t really matter what kind of investor you think you are. The results of your efforts are translated into the profits and losses that appear in your portfolio. Therefore, even if you feel very confident and have a great feeling about a particular stock that everyone’s talking about, when push comes to shove, your emotions make very little difference. Actual market performance is, at the end of the day, what counts.

For many years, investors have always wanted to know what the true secret is to buying the right stocks. From the South Sea Bubble to the Great Depression, there are those who fell by the wayside when everything went wrong, while on the other hand, there were those who made the right moves and ended up living in luxury. So, what is it that helps some people get it right, while others don’t? Is there any real basis for investing by following your gut feelings? And, if the famous disclaimer, “past performance is no indication of future returns,” is actually true, what is the point of all of the research out there into markets, stocks, performance, etc. anyway? Perhaps the whole thing is one great gamble.

These questions, of why people invest the way they do, have occupied researchers in recent years, giving rise to the science of behavioral investing. One such researcher, Professor Terrance Odean of the University of California (Berkeley), studied the behavior of investors and reached the conclusion that “the average investor is his own worst enemy.”

According to Professor Odean, “the average investor is better off not trying to time the market.” From his research, he has found that individuals tend to get market timing and behavior wrong more often than institutional investors. There can be many reasons for this. For example, an individual is more likely to be driven by emotions such as fear or regret, whereas an institution is less likely to be driven by emotion. Secondly, as Professor Odean points out, “there are times when institutional investors know things that individuals don’t know, so they have an informational advantage or ability to process publicly available information in a better way.”

Based on Professor Odean’s research, the most efficient way to buy stocks may be to use the services of a money manager. Professional money managers hopefully won’t be blinded by emotion when making investment decisions (after all it’s their job!) and have more access to the right information than the average investor.

If you want to find out more about the theories of behavioral investing, watch a video of my interview with Professor Odean, which took place on the Goldstein on Gelt radio show.

‘Slaughter The Jews’: Israel, Anti-Semitism, And International Law (Third of Three Parts)

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The Genocide Convention criminalizes not only various acts of genocide, but also (Article III) conspiracy to commit genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide. Articles II, III and IV of the Genocide Convention are fully applicable in all cases of direct and public incitement to commit genocide. For the Convention to be invoked, it is sufficient that any one of the state parties call for a meeting, through the United Nations, of all the state parties (Article VIII).

Though this has never been done, the United States, especially following the upcoming presidential election, should consider very seriously taking this particular step. Israel, too, should be an obvious co-participant in this call, but it is unlikely that any government in Jerusalem, historically aware of always-expanding global indifference to Jewish life, will seek formal redress under any multilateral conventions.

An alternative remedy/strategy could involve the issuance of specific criminal indictments for crimes against humanity, by Israel’s Justice Ministry, to the key Palestinian broadcasters and journalists now engaged in daily anti-Semitic harangues. In the words of Israeli attorney, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, back in February 2004: “Those who operate Palestinian television and radio stations and the printing presses engaged in hate speech should be arrested along with the other suspected killers.”

Any public trial before an Israeli tribunal could carry very grave geopolitical risks. For one, as no Arab or Iranian authority could ever be expected to extradite alleged wrongdoers to Israel for trial, it would inevitably be up to Israeli military and police authorities to acquire physical custody over defendants. This is the case though such an expected Arab/Iranian disregard for Israeli extradition requests would represent a manifestly serious violation of peremptory international criminal law.

Even if an Israeli trial could afford opportunity for a direct evidentiary connection between Palestinian media incitement and Palestinian terrorism, much of the world would be focused instead on the extraordinary means by which Israel took custody of the inciters. After all, when Israel captured major Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann in 1960, more states chose to condemn the abduction than to recall the prisoner’s role as murderer of one million Jewish children.

The Genocide Convention, the London Charter, and the December 2003 International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda are not the only authoritative codifications that could now be invoked against relentless media and leadership calls for the mass killing of Jews. The 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination should also be brought productively into play. This treaty condemns “all propaganda and all organizations which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form,” obliging, in Article 4(a), state parties to declare as “an offense punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any race or group of persons.” Article 4(b) affirms that state parties “Shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination, and shall recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offense punishable by law.”

Further authority for curtailing and punishing Palestinian calls for genocidal destruction of Jews can be found in Article 20(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

The overriding point of the judgments at Nuremberg was to ensure that all future crimes against humanity be identified, prosecuted, and punished. Fully aware of these judgments, the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda ruled, in December 2003, that “mere words” can contain substantial criminal liability, and may warrant very severe punishments. Understood in terms of ongoing homicidal and genocidal Arab and Iranian calls for violence against Israel, it is essential that every state in the United Nations now be reminded of its binding obligation not to encourage another Holocaust. This is a fully legal obligation, and certainly must not be taken lightly.

Now, especially in anticipation of November’s presidential election, there may be new opportunities in Washington to finally make things right regarding Israel’s fundamental security needs. It is imperative that any such opportunities be identified, and taken quickly, while there is still time, and certainly before a Palestinian state is declared unilaterally.

MK Katz: In Two Decades Secular Israelis Will Be the Minority

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Speaking at a discussion of the Knesset Education Committee on the changing status-quo of religious and ultra-Orthodox education, committee member and chairman of the National Union MK Ya’akov Katz (Ketzaleh) said:

It’s all about the numbers. The change in the status-quo stems from demographic change. When I was in an officer training course 40 years ago, we were three religious cadets out of 150. My children [who are today] officers constitute more than half of the officers corps.”

MK Katz noted that “the religious and Haredi community is growing while the secular are marrying late and do not reproduce. The state must prepare in such a way that the religious and Haredi community should take its place—alongside the study of Torah—in also the fields of science, security and social sciences. In two decades we will have to formulate a status-quo policy for our secular minority.”

‘Slaughter The Jews’: Israel, Anti-Semitism, And International Law (First of Three Parts)

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Over the past several months President Obama has generally focused his attention away from the Middle East “peace process.” It is fair to ask, therefore, whether his core preferences for a settlement – carving a Palestinian state out of the still-living body of Israel and “a world free of nuclear weapons” (a world in which Israel would no longer be able to deter certain existential attacks) – still remain a matter of reasonable concern.

From the start, the Obama plan for a road map to peace in the Middle East has revealed that in matters concerning Israeli rights under international law, there is essentially nothing new on the horizon. Fundamental Israeli rights, including even the right of Jews to live and construct homes anywhere in the land of Israel, are still being subordinated to the presumed rights of all others. This includes the annihilatory claims of a wrongly and an imprudently legitimized Palestinian Authority.

To be fair, Obama is not the originator of our misconceived U.S. foreign policy toward Israel. Oddly enough, already back in the 1990s Palestinian terrorist militias were being trained by the CIA in “counter terror tactics.” A key component of the Obama administration’s Palestinian policy had been the training of “moderate” Fatah-led Palestinian security forces. U.S. Lt. General Keith Dayton had supervised this self-defeating training in neighboring Jordan, an indefensible process of assisting sworn terrorist enemies of Israel and the United States.

If ever there has existed an irrefutable strategic oxymoron is “Palestinian counterterrorist forces.” The president, embracing a so-called Arab Peace Plan (previously, the “Saudi Plan”) seemingly still expects Israel to retreat to indefensible 1949 armistice lines, and, ultimately, to expel hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes in Judea/Samaria, Jerusalem, and possibly the Golan Heights.

In essence, the Arab Plan that has been favored by Obama effectively demands that Israel incrementally cease being a Jewish state by allowing literally millions of foreign Arabs to become Israeli citizens within the country’s intentionally shrunken borders.

There is still another distressing layer of irony and illegality here. Each and every day Arab and Iranian media are filled with graphic calls for violence against all Jews, not “just” against Israelis. These explicit entreaties to aggression and genocide are not simply indecent or impermissible on moral grounds. They also stand in unassailably stark violation of codified and customary norms of international law. Indeed, as these particular norms are “peremptory” – that is, norms permitting absolutely “no derogation” – the relevant legal violations are ones of utmost seriousness.

Now that the American presidential election is on the horizon, we should inquire: Where are the expected demands of the president and his likely opponent for Arab/Iranian cessation of cries to “slaughter the Jews?”

The answer may have less to do with Washington than with Jerusalem. There will never be any such indispensable demands until Israel first begins to speak up for itself. In this connection, it is time for Israel’s representatives in all international organizations and forums to remind the world more plainly and consistently of their country’s incontestable rights to self-defense. Significantly, this can never be accomplished when Prime Minister Netanyahu is willing to agree to any idea of a Palestinian state, even one that will purportedly be “demilitarized.”

International law is not a suicide pact. Israel is under no obligation to disappear in order to satisfy undisguised cravings of genocidal hatred in various portions of the Islamic world. For its part, the United States, finally, should cease prodding Israel toward complicity in its own disappearance.

We can recall Jimmy Carter’s genuinely insidious motives in the Middle East. Although Obama may be substantially better intentioned toward Israel, he is still quite naïve concerning the inherently perilous synergies of Middle Eastern religion, culture, and politics. Hopefully, the most portentous consequences of this naiveté will be mitigated or removed after the coming presidential election.

In December 2004, after the then latest African genocide had already been “completed,” the world legal order dealt with a glaring case of organized hatred involving Rwanda. In that case, the particular venue was the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda (ICTR). More precisely, three African media executives were found guilty by ICTR of genocide, incitement to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/slaughter-the-jews-israel-anti-semitism-and-international-law-first-of-three-parts/2012/06/14/

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