Thursday, July 05, 2007

Could Shlomo Hamelech have invented cars II?

A while back I posted Could Shlomo Hamelech have invented cars?, that many in the Charedi world believe that Shlomo Hamelech or Chazal could have invented anything (cars, computers, etc.) if they had wanted to.

Shlomo Hamelech was the wisest man who ever lived and he knew everything the scientists know and he could have created cars, phones, etc., anything that we have from modern technology. Why didn't he do it? He felt that a simple non-technological lifestyle was better.

Yesterday's Yated repeated this claim about the Rambam and the Rashba.

At the time we heard from R' Leib Ratick zt"l (who I think heard it in the name of the Mashgiach from Kletzk R' Yosef Leib Nandick zt"l), that the reason that the greats of our nation, like the Rambam and the Rashba, and the Goan (the Gra)did not invent with their great minds inventions such as trains, planes, or the telegraph, is because they measured these things against the gain that would come from them, these things that allowed a tremendous growth in the ability to kill and destroy, which was expressed in the terrible wars of the 20th century. As opposed to Torah knowledge which can only produce good things free from any potential bad.

Given the opinion expressed above we can better understand the reaction the Charedi attitude towards science and scientists.


Rafi G. said...

maybe, but there is still a difference. that line of thought says the Rambam (or whoever) could have done it, but did not because of the possible outcome he was concerned about.
We never find the Rambam writing against scientists or other inventions and telling others not to invent.

That is different than rabbonim today railing against modern day inventions and science.

To be consistent with the above lline of thought, todays rabbonim and gedolim would have to remain quiet and just not invent.

bluke said...

The Rambam was really a poor example as the Rambam was someone who was very well versed in the science of his day and used it

Zach Kessin said...

I posted this entry on my blog a while back, I think it covers this idea quite well.

There is a thought going around various parts of the Orthodox world that the rabbis of the Talmud period could do all the things that science can do today.

I'm pretty sure this is a modern invention, but assume for a second that they could have created a working antibiotic or small pox vaccine, and failed to do so for some reason. I have to ask, in what way is that not depraved indifference to human life. Smallpox claimed 300million (or more) dead in the 20th century before it was eradicated, the black death claimed 75 million during a series of outbreaks in Europe, but today can be cured by a simple antibiotic. If someone had a real way to stop an outbreak like this and did nothing then by any moral standard they would be a monster. (numbers from wikipedia)

Now do I think the rabbis could do this and chose not to, no I don't. I have no reason to believe that the rabbis of the Gamara were anything but experts in Torah, and I don't think stating that diminishes them.

Chaim B. said...

>>>I have no reason to believe that the rabbis of the Gamara were anything but experts in Torah

The gemara in Gittin (beginning of Mi sheAchazo) has a discussion of medicine upon which the Maharasha comments that the Talmud included this discussion to demonstrate that Chazal were experts in matters of the world like medicine as well as matters of Torah.
I have not gone through it in a long time, but IIRC the claim that Rishonim could have invented things had they wanted to is found in the Ohr Yahel as well, so it would seem this line of thought stems from mussar circles, unless someone finds other mekoros.

bluke said...

This relates to the Gemara in Pesachim as well where the Chachamim debated the Gentile scholars about the movement of the sun and Rebbe concluded that the Gentile scholars seemed to be right (although see R' Tam). No one disagrees that Chazal were very conversant with the science of their times. However that in no way means that they could have invented cars or any other modern invention.

Unknown said...

Didnt Chizkiyahu hide the "book of refuos" which was able to heal (atleast) certain sicknesses? Was that not a disregard for human life etc?

Not everything that chazal did can be measured according to our american modern minds. Somethings are above us

Zach Kessin said...

If the rabbis of 2000 years ago could have prevented smallpox, polio, measles, mumps, cholera and the black death (All of which are quite preventable now) and choose not to then I do not see how you can call that anything but depraved indeference to human life on a grand scale. The simple act of putting in a system to deliver clean water to fight cholera and the like alone would have saved millions of lives over the past 2000 years.

madaral said...

Simple CPR techniques (including mouth-to-mouth rescuscitation) were only established very recently, even though after the fact this could have been learned from what Elisha did to revive the Shunamite child.

The mention of the GR"A is unfortunate. He taught davka that knowledge about Chochmot HaOlam was limited in his time, and prediced that the gates of Heaven would be opened in the year 5600, based on the Zohar.

g' said...

Given the fact that the Rambams brother died at sea and he never ceased grieving over his death I find it unbelievable that he potentially could have invented such high technology that perhaps may have prevented his death. . I believe that God allows humanity to amass information as they can handle it. Imagine if Hitler had access to nuclear missiles? The deficiency thus is not In the Rambams 'lack' of knowledge but rather in Gods choice if you will, to allow the great scholars of that time to attain such high technological wisdom!