God or Global Warming or Both?
So Katrina hit and various rabbis noted a correlations with the disengagement from Gaza. Question: Is Rita, like Katrina, God’s punishment, or is this one just a storm?

People often say that religion and science aren’t in conflict, and ‘explanations’ of Katrina make Muffti think that maybe they are right. If scientists explain something by positing a cause, they are expect to draw on a theory that predicts the events from the antecedent causes. The theory is judged partly testing the predictions of the theory under similar conditions. If they cite a rise in surface temperature of the ocean as a cause of rising intensity of hurricanes, then we expect similar effects in other regions where the causal antecedent conditions are similar. If we don’t find that in general (and we can’t explain cases where it doesn’t happen) we lose confidence in the theory.

Religious explanations don’t typically seem to bear any similar burden: otherwise, Muffti would like to see those who cite divine intervention as a cause of anything tell Muffti clearly what the causal conditions are (people misbehaving?) and then make a substantial prediction (natural disaster?) about what will happen to people in similar conditions. In the absence of a theory that makes real predictions, people are totally free to say any stupid shit they see fit posit fanciful explanations. Perhaps one thing that gets science minded people so annoyed with religious ‘explanations’ is simply that in the absence of a theory that makes prior predictions, there is no sense in trying to tell whether any particular event is evidence for or against that explanation being true. This holds true for interpretations of the Torah: Muffti gets annoyed when people tell him a midrash to explain things because, absent a theory of how to tell whether the midrash is true, or some constraint on what is positable, everything begins to look ad hoc.

OK, sorry for the rant. Proceed with your lives.

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  • What’s allah doing to these poor yanks?

    This just in: South-eastern United States no longer habitable. Film at 11.

    i’m curious to see how much money and effort bush will put towards his adopted home state of texas.

    that’s if it does much damage.
    rita looks rather large. Need to talk about Rita soon.

  • Purim Hero-
    Hurry up already, because the “old era” is due for a change-up, and that’s going to impact how many appliances olim can bring with ’em. In the meantime, best to use fewer styrofoam cups, rely less on your trusty internal combustion engines, and in general, minimize global warming in whatever ways you can. Y’know, just in case there really is a scientific explanation for all this stuff. —Not that I’m saying there is, kinainahara pooh pooh pooh.

  • Actually, Rita is a in retribution for your irreverent blogging, your years of thumping your nose at us Rabbis (which rhymes with Rita, sort of), and your habit of referring to yourself in the third person as if you were king. Do you think you could get away with this forever? Do you think this could go unanswered?

    Meanwhile, Back at Reality Ranch, all sorts of wild predictions are being made, and wild theories being bandied around like chickens on Yom Kippur Eve.

    Once upon a time the world was blessed with Prophets. And please do not take serious offense all Mormon, Muslim, or Christian readers. The age of prophesy finished over 2000 years ago.

    Rabbis over the years have applied a general principle that attributes Jewish suffering to our sins. This is well established as anyone who has suffered through a long boring sermon on the high Holydays can attest. Newly incessant, Cable Television style proclamations, that attributes suffering to others because of their sins against Jews, is a manifestation of the dire predicament of our pre-redepmtion world.

    Rest assured, the wicked will suffer for their sins, the righteous will be rewarded for their mitzvas. We cannot understand the innocent lives lost to disasters and tragedies, it’s beyond human comprehension (I know that Mufti will have a field day with that one, I hope he brings a hat and sunscreen)

    What we can learn from Rita, Shmita, and Katrina, is what is really important in life: Shelter, Food, Family. How fragile is our existence. How dependent we are on strangers and others. How we must help our neighbor in times of crisis. How people can be heros. How to give. How to receive. How much we need to do for others and how preoccupied we our with ourselves. How so many people here in our cities live like Katrina victims everyday, without adequate shelter, no food and no jobs. How much healing and helping needs to go on. How much racism hurts our country. How much religious institutions can help. How we need to examine our own preparedness in the event of trouble. How we need to be in closer contact with our loved ones, parents, relatives, and friends. How we desperately need humor and faith. How if not now, when? How if I am only for myself, who am I? How if I am not for myself, who will be? How great is the divide between rich and poor and have and have not. How to count our blessings. How brave are some TV journalists and how cowardly are some politicians. How wrong our assumptions are. How we need to ask forgiveness. How to apologize. How to say thank you. How to respond in the face of mortal danger. How we need to use waterproof Torah-arks. How we all have to hold hands and stick together. How much the world needs love. How much love can heal. How much we have to be thankful for this Rosh Hashanah.

  • Muff! Let Jspircco clarify: Rita is Hashem gently telling us Jew people that He Runs the World. That’s all.

    There’s more, but now YOU MUST BEG!

  • I hate when the religious folks always co-opt every damn thing. Wouldn’t the world be better off w/out most of the organized religions?

  • Yeah, but if he’s trying to get our attention, he’s leaving it awfully open to interpretation. I mean, maybe if God took out a brief advertising spot during primetime to help explain what he’s trying to say. You know, like, “Folks, this is God. You may remember me from such popular conflicting religious texts as the Tanakh, the New Testament, the Qu’ran and Chick comics. Anyway, you are no doubt aware of the recent hurricane-related events in the United States. This is my way of saying, ‘ME RUN T’INGS, T’INGS NUH RUN ME, BITCHES!’ Thank you, and enjoy your show.”

    Is that so much to ask?

  • Yeah, but I must have a different version, ‘cuz mine are mostly about having no other gods and not coveting and stuff like that. It’s doesn’t say ANYWHERE “I am the Lord thy God, and if y’all piss me off, I will seriously send major hurricanes at the Gulf Coast 3200 years from now to prove that I fuckin’ rule. Don’t even question. Bitches.”

  • “Bitches” is implied. I don’t think G-d’s necessarily responsible for weather patterns, but I think it’s perfectly natural that people are looking for someone or something to blame. Bush can’t “track down the evildoers” this time, and that sucks for people who would prefer to identify a cause and try to eradicate it.

    I think that people look to midrashim not to explain the truth about life, but as a literary tool (like fables or parables) to explain linguistic inconsistencies in the text or to help us understand human nature. Example: Joseph is thrown into a pit that is “empty: it has no water in it.” Rashi comments that it has no water in it, but the reason water is specified is because the pit was not empty of snakes and scorpions. Another midrash is the one about the two brothers who were constantly giving each other wheat from their fields, each thinking the other to be more needy than themselves, until one night, they met, realized what was going on, and embraced: that spot was the one on which the Temple was later built, lending the site an aura of brotherly love and consideration.

    I don’t view these stories as facts. But I do think they flesh out the text and make the narratives seem more human and relatable. Maybe that’s just me.

  • They have you coming or going. They use terms like Derech HaTeva to explain the unexplainable. Then they can act like animals, re: their wives and how someome would listen to idle bs gossip and then tear a Mother away from the children that she suffered through labor and nurtured them w/ her own essence of love. All in the name of who’s the Boss. What a load of crap Sirpi.


    (and NO medication jokes from the peanut gallery re: jsirpicco!)

  • To Grandmuffti regarding applying the scientific method to spirituality/religion:

    I think you are mistaken if you are trying to compare faith/spirituality/religion to science. They are not peer systems of truth. What do I mean by that? Not all truth is amenable to the same standards of inquiry. For example, there are many things which can be proven mathematically, and there are many things which can be proven scientifically. Yet, there are many things which can be proven scientifically, yet can not be formally verified mathematically. Does this mean that the science not formally verified via mathematics is bunk? Of course not. But it is a domain of truth which is held to a different standard of inquiry. In very much the same way, there are things in our lives which can be, and should be, held to a scientific method of inquiry. And there are other things in life where the scientific method is not applicable, and it is foolish to apply it there.

  • Taltman, Muffti totally agrees. That was kind of the point of the rant. Muffti suspects we differ over the implications, however. But that the two are incommensurable seems fairly bovious to muffti.

  • Rabbi Y,

    Muffti hopes you know of the deep respect Muffti (generally) has for rebbes, yourself in particular. He refuses to appologize for irreverance: CK told him it was a precondition of posting here. As for referring to himself in the third person like a king, he perfers to think of it as though he were a Muffti. A Grand one at that.

    Anyhow, nice posting. Muffti isn’t quite sure what the message there is. And he isn’t really sure that disasters are beyond human comprehension. Warmer surface temperatures of water tend to cause more violent storms. THat hypothesis may well be true and it is certainly not beyond human comprehension. Nonetheless, point well taken and Muffti thinks you are right about the various messages and lessons that we should take away from seeing other humans suffer horribly.

  • But that the two are incommensurable seems fairly bovious to muffti. –Grandmuffti

    Sorry, did you mean to type, ‘obvious’ or ‘bivious’? 🙂 They both work in context.

    My understanding of the implications is that there is a ‘framework’ beyond science and mathematics that makes sense of our experiences beyond those two systems of inquiry, which is what I believe is Judaism / Torah. I take it that your conclusion is that their difference leads you to believe one or the other?

  • Thank you GrandMufti for your reflections, and my intro was meant as to be tongue in cheek… And thank you for the wonderful feedback.

  • “So Katrina hit and various rabbis noted a correlations with the disengagement from Gaza. Question: Is Rita, like Katrina, God’s punishment, or is this one just a storm?”

    Muffti, you are so getting our blog’s Daily Gaaz-o-Leen! (extreme humor) award for that li’l gem.

  • Im just too tired to do this again.
    Suffice it to say (for now) that I disagree certainly with muffti and even with taltman.

    It is both the same. We are the people of the book. We don’t ‘believe’ things without knowing them.

    Apparently people will believe what they want to believe and will choose to ignore arguments that make them uncomfortable.

    I don’t have the time now maybe in the future I will again try to explain how there is no distinction between science and religion (obviously religion of the wise not the fools who always manage to give stupid answers.)

    I suppose that those who are uncomfortable with the idea that all of their actions are being watched and are known will find ways (in their own minds) of blocking that out like an ostrage who sticks its head in the sand.

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