Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bad Faith

Is there anything about the culture, I want to know, that generates this sort of turning away, passivity, and moral blindness that permeated the Kolko case? Does ultra-orthodox culture generate what one might call an "emperor has no clothes" syndrome?

My hypothesis is that communities have different kinds of defenses. Not every community deals with issues in the same way. Orthodoxy, as it was re-established in America after the war, relies heavily on variants of denial as a way of dealing with reality. (16th century Jewish Poland, for example, didn’t need denial in the same way. There was no modern science that was in conflict with Torah. Jews believed what the science of it’s day believed.) We can see this in all the issues that have come up in recent months. For example, the response of the rabbis to the Slifken books is a classic example of denial. Rabbi Slifken, in a series of books, suggested in a very guarded way that there is some truth to evolution, and woooo the world might be millions of years old. (No kidding.) It was fairly tepid stuff when compared to the Dawkins-Dennet type of bomb throwing. What Slifken said is certainly compatible with versions of creationism and intelligent design. The rabbis, headed by Rabbi Eliyashav, the chief decisor in the orthodox world, banned the book, even though most everyone knows there are a couple of mountains of evidence for evolution. The rabbis chose not to look at the evidence, read it, or offer detailed criticisms. In Freudian jargon this is called denial. Ditto for the Tendler cases & "The Making of a Gadol" silliness. (Details to follow in subsequent blogs.)

In each of these cases, there was evidence staring people in the face that was simply denied. These cases are all classic "emperor has no clothes" situations. The theme of denial, refusing to acknowledge either reality or what one already knows, is a theme that will emerge many times as I blog away.

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