Audio Roundup 2018:37

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by Joel Rich

Assume that “surveys” show that the percentage of “top” (TBD) scientists who consider themselves religious is dramatically lower than that of a similar demographic of non-top scientists (and non-scientists). How would one go about explaining the causes of this differential theoretically and then testing the theory?

The Rama in O”C 132:2 states that the “kaddish yatom” (mourners’ kaddish)after aleinu must be said even if there is no yatom in the Shul. He adds that it may even be said by one who has live parents if they aren’t makpid (finicky?) about it. Question: If the parents went to their Rav, would he answer the question should they be finicky about it? If he would, what would his answer be?

Please direct any informal comments to [email protected].

About Joel Rich

Joel Rich is a frequent wannabee cyberspace lecturer on various Torah topics. A Yerushalmi formerly temporarily living in West Orange, NJ, his former employer and the Social Security administration support his Torah listening habits. He is a recovering consulting actuary.


  1. The people who get ahead in any profession spend more time within its community, and therefore pick up the attitudes of its echo chamber. Even when those attitudes are not compelled by the field itself. And like any echo chamber (think the current state of American politics and social media), you will end up with a feedback loop (“echo”) that pushes the demographics away from the middle ground.

    I guess the only way to test it is to look at people who found their scientific calling in childhood, but lack the opportunities to get that immersion in the community. And/or to look at people who didn’t originally go into the sciences, such that their religious opinions were set before they did.

    • Just to consider another way the community’s culture could have played out. Had history not had things like the Church dneying Copernicus setting up an adversarial background.

      In Calculating God, Robert J. Sawyer (2000) tells the story of humanity’s encounter with a group of alien scientists who come to study other planets and learn from its inhabitants. Their paleontologist is amazed to learn that his counterpart is an atheist. On their planet, the scientific orthodoxy is that given the evidence of evolution and yet the sheer unlikeliness of evolution getting anywhere — never mind the rise of sentient species — it had to be guided by a Creator. (Where the story progresses beyond the main character’s first few discussions with the alien palientologist is less illustrative my point.)

      There really is no compelling reason the community gravitated to one philosophical underpinning to the explanation of the data than another.

      Something e are now seeing in other fields. In Quantum Mechanics, the first explanation of what the wave function was and how/when it collapsed was Niel Bohr’s Copenhagen Interpretation. And it dominated thought in physics until its popularity started fading less than two decades ago. Not that their weren’t other interpretations of Quantum Mechanics that equally fit the same data. These were different interpretations of the theory, not different equations but different justifications for why they would exist. Just that one captured the community’s imagination. Until people found less mystical explanations that allow them to take consciousness off the pedestal Copenhagen put it on.

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