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David Gelernter on overreaching scientists: The Closing of the Scientific Mind Commentary Magazine
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Rabbi helps IDF soldiers relate to tradition
▪ R. Shalom Hammer: 2013: Rabbis and politicians: “Sorry seems to be the hardest words”
▪ R. Nataf on the meaning and meaninglessness of New Year’s: New Year’s in Israel and Protestant Jewry
Israel’s circumcision interventions draw mixed reception from European Jews
Survey: Israel sixth favorite country for Americans | Jewish Telegraphic Agency
▪ We are once again in the list of top referrers: YUTorah Online – 2013 Year in Review
▪ Chabad responds to this Call of the Shofar organization, about which I know little: Yeshiva Institutes Changes; Mashpiim Issue Statement

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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  1. David Gelernter article basically says (correctly from my readings) that we have no clue what consciousness is or how to even think about measuring it.

    • I think his argument is broader than that. Yes, he discusses the first-hand experience of consciousness (what it’s like when I see red, and how do I know it matches what red looks like to you?). But that doesn’t require not understanding it. He is saying there is more to life than physical reality. Our experience of red is a different thing than the neural activity in our brains — even if they map 1-to-1. Seeing my synapses fire in some futiristic fMRI isn’t the same as seeing what a rose looks like in my mind. Science cannot define morality, even if it can tell us more about how to apply our moral code. Even positing an objective moral standard, so that morality doesn’t depend on the subjectivity of consciousness, there is still Hume’s Is-Ought Problem. (Postulates that describe what is can’t jump the gap to be used to prove what ought to be.) Theology and metaphysics are also beyond science’s reach.

      And there has been a growth of scientism — the belief that scientific method is the only justification, and therefore that the only objective facts are empirical ones. But there are other ways of justifying a belief. For that matter, unless you personally did the experiment, you’re relying on those other justifications, not scientific method. And above I listed things that are non-physical but real. (Scientific method also can’t handle the miraculous — the empirical event that can’t be reproduced on demand by experiment.) And even id one were to believe those two clauses, the “therefore” isn’t true — there could be objective truths that we can never justify.

      The Rav discusses this. It’s part of why today’s Lonely Man of Faith is so lonely. Adam I has been so successfull, Adam II and his world have become neglected.

      • Yes, but all that stems from not being able to measure it. If you can’t measure it, than any hypothesis is “as good” as any other in terms of provability.

        • Yes. You can say my point was that the article is not so much about consciousness as about the reality of things that can’t be empirically measured in general.

          Consciousness is only one item on that list. So is theology, metaphysics, morality… Euclidean geometry, for that matter. And numerous other “things”.

          (Related might be that davar doesn’t mean “thing” limited to the empirical sense of the word, which is why the same shoresh gives us “dibur”.)

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