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Gidi Grinstein
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  1. The Jewish Future, Part 3
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  3. Quotations of G. K. Chesterton – Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton
  4. Best Artificial Intelligence Science Fiction

Let me try to pin you down a little more. You're saying the scientific method has only so much explanatory power. At least right now, it has very little to say about subjective experience. That still leaves open the question, is the mind more than the brain? Or does consciousness always have some physical correlate? Don't get me wrong. I want to push physical explanations as far as possible. I'm a man who loves science. I'm in awe of science. I don't ever want theology to put restraints upon science. I believe every thought we have has a physical correlate.

But at the same time, I believe there's something about mind that does transcend, while at the same time fully dwelling incarnately in the physical universe. I see that as a microcosmic example of what's going on in the universe as a whole. So I want a worldview that's wide enough to ask the question, why does the universe not stand still?

Once radiation came about early in the universe, why didn't the universe say, "Well, we're just fine here. This is a pretty good universe. We experience this in ourselves. We're just as much a part of the universe as rivers and rocks are. Therefore, we should use what's going on in our own experience as a key to what's happening in the cosmos as a whole.

I call this a "wider empiricism. It doesn't reflect adequately on why subjectivity enters the universe at all. Why does the universe transcend itself from purely material to living and then to conscious phenomena? Teilhard himself said that what science left out was nature's most important development -- human phenomena. You have carved out an interesting position in the debate over science and religion. You are critical of atheists like Dawkins and Dennett, who believe evolutionary theory leads to atheism.

Yet you testified at the Dover trial against intelligent design. What's wrong with intelligent design? I testified against it because, first of all, teaching it in public schools is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. There is something irremediably religious about the idea. Try to deny it though they might, advocates of intelligent design are really proposing a kind of watered-down version of natural theology. That's the attempt to explain what's going on in nature's order and design by appealing to a nonnatural source.

So it's not science. I agree with all the scientists who say intelligent design should not be made part of science. It's not a valid scientific alternative to Darwinian ideas. It should not be taught in classrooms and public schools. It's also extremely poor theology. What intelligent design tries to do -- and the great theologians have always resisted this idea -- is to place the divine, the Creator, within the continuum of natural causes. And this amounts to an extreme demotion of the transcendence of God, by making God just one cause in a series of natural causes.

This becomes the "God of the gaps. Paul Tillich, the great Protestant theologian, said that kind of thinking was the foundation of modern atheism. Careless Christian thinkers wanted to make a place for God within the physical system that Newton and others had elaborated. That, in effect, demoted the deity as being just one link in a chain of causes that brought the transcendent into the realm of complete secular immanence.

The atheists quite rightly said this God is unnecessary. The debate over evolution has entered the presidential campaign. Mike Huckabee, the former evangelical pastor, calls himself a "Christian leader" and says intelligent design should be one of the theories taught in public schools. But he says his personal views about evolution don't matter because education is a matter for states to decide.

The Jewish Future, Part 3

Should we be alarmed by his comments? I think so. To admit that he "personally" rejects evolution may sound harmless enough at first sight. But when any Christians reject evolution these days, one may presume that they usually, though not always, do so on the basis of a literalist style of biblical interpretation. It's this that concerns me. Combined with the principle of private interpretation of Scripture, biblical literalism can end up short-circuiting the process of public debate, justifying almost any domestic and international policies one finds convenient.

I don't know for sure that this is the case with Huckabee, but I'm still worried. It seems to me that we need to be clear about what we mean by "religion. You've suggested that some scientists are inherently religious because of their quest to understand ultimate causes, even though they may not believe in God. What is your definition of religion? There are thousands of different definitions of religion. But I like to think of three main ways of understanding it.

The first way -- and I think almost all of us are religious in this sense -- is to define religion as concern about something of ultimate importance. This was Tillich's broad definition: Religion is ultimate concern. Even the atheist who says that science is the only reliable road to truth, and nature is all there is, is setting up something that's ultimate. It's like the top stone of a pyramid that conditions everything else in the pyramid. In our own lives, we all have something like a top stone.

If it were suddenly removed, it would cause our lives to fall apart. So we're all religious in that sense. In a narrower sense, religion is simply a sense of mystery. Einstein, for example, was someone who couldn't conceive of people -- especially scientists -- living without a sense of mystery. There are many scientists -- sometimes they're called "religious naturalists" -- who are deeply satisfied with the scientific universe that has given us an exhilarating sense of new horizons.

That sense can fulfill a person's life. They want to reclaim the word "religion. But they don't want any part of God. Yeah, but there's a deep division among scientific atheists on this question. People like Dawkins and Weinberg are reluctant to go along with that idea of sacredness. But let me get to my third understanding of religion. That's a belief that this ultimate reality is at heart personal, by which we mean it is intelligent and is capable of love and making promises. This is the fundamental thinking about God in the Quran and the Bible -- God is personal. Theologically speaking, personality is a symbol, like everything else in religion.

Like all symbols, "personality" doesn't adequately capture the full depth of ultimate reality. But the conviction of the Abrahamic religions is that if ultimate reality were not at least personal -- at least capable of everything that humans are capable of -- then we could not surrender ourselves fully to it. It would be an "it" rather than a "thou" and therefore would not reach us in the depth of our being.

But why? There are many people who lead profound spiritual lives who don't accept the idea of a personal God. And there are entire religious traditions, like Buddhism, which don't have a concept of God, and certainly not a personal God. I'm not denying that they're religious. They certainly would fit into the second, and sometimes the first, understanding of religion. Nor am I denying that they are capable of living with deep morality and compassion.

I'm just delineating three understandings of faith. It's when you come to the belief in a personal God that the question of science and religion becomes most acute. Einstein is certainly relevant in this context. He called himself a "deeply religious nonbeliever. But he thought the idea of a personal God was preposterous. He couldn't believe in a God who interfered with natural events or intervened in the lives of people. Let's look at why Einstein found that idea of God objectionable.

Einstein was a man who thought the laws of physics have to be completely inviolable. Nature is a closed continuum of deterministic causes and effects, and if anything interrupted that, it would violate the fundamental scientific worldview that he had. So the idea of a responsive God -- a God who answers prayers -- would have to violate the laws of physics, the laws of nature.

This is why Einstein said the problem of science and religion is caused by the belief in a personal God. But it's not inevitable that a responsive God violates the laws of physics and chemistry. I don't think God does violate those laws. Let's take the example of prayer. You are a Christian. Do you believe God answers your prayers?

Yes, but I have to go along with Martin Gardner here and ask, what if God answered everybody's prayers? What kind of world would we have? I also have to think of what Jesus said when his disciples asked him to teach them to pray. What he told them, in effect, was to pray for something really big. He called it "the kingdom of God. So when we pray, we're asking that the world might have a future. I believe God is answering our prayers but not always in the ways we want.

In the final analysis, we hope and trust that God will show or reveal himself as one who has been accompanying our prayers and responding to the world all along, but not necessarily in the narrow way that the human mind is able to conjure up. What do you make of the miracles in the Bible -- most importantly, the Resurrection? Do you think that happened in the literal sense? I don't think theology is being responsible if it ever takes anything with completely literal understanding. What we have in the New Testament is a story that's trying to awaken us to trust that our lives make sense, that in the end, everything works out for the best.

In a pre-scientific age, this is done in a way in which unlettered and scientifically illiterate people can be challenged by this Resurrection. But if you ask me whether a scientific experiment could verify the Resurrection, I would say such an event is entirely too important to be subjected to a method which is devoid of all religious meaning. If you had a camera in the upper room when the disciples came together after the death and Resurrection of Jesus, we would not see it.

I'm not the only one to say this. Even conservative Catholic theologians say that. Faith means taking the risk of being vulnerable and opening your heart to that which is most important. We trivialize the whole meaning of the Resurrection when we start asking, Is it scientifically verifiable?

Science is simply not equipped to deal with the dimensions of purposefulness, love, compassion, forgiveness -- all the feelings and experiences that accompanied the early community's belief that Jesus is still alive. Science is simply not equipped to deal with that. We have to learn to read the universe at different levels. Today, the world population is estimated at 7. The demographic decline is even more marked in Europe and North America, the two areas that, until now, have been both the major centers of Jewish life and the leading actors in world politics and economics.

The global European population, Russia included, was million in , and the Jewish European population was about 10 million: Jews thus amounted to 2. Today, the respective figures are million and 1. In the United States, where the global population doubled, from million in to million today, the Jewish population seems to have remained almost at the same level, from 5 million then to about 6 million today: Jews dropped from 3 percent of the American population to less than 2 percent.

Indeed, the spectacular demographic rise of Israeli Jewry, from , in to more than 6 million today, has compensated in some ways for the decline elsewhere. It is not clear whether Jewish life in the Diaspora, and Jewish American support for Israel, are sustainable in a dwindling demographic environment.

Which brings us to the even more far-reaching issue of Jewish identity and lifestyle. The Jewish people is currently splitting into sub-currents that have less and less in common. According to a Pew survey, 9 million adult Americans claim a Jewish heritage, but only a bit more than one half of them 5. Then the latter group splits again between a Reform-Conservative majority about 80 percent of the religious affiliated American Jews and a small but growing Orthodox minority 20 percent. According to a Pew survey, there is a sharp divide between Orthodox and non-Orthodox American Jews on almost every issue, including the actual practice of religion, support for Israel, and American politics.

The main difference, however, is in intermarriage.

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Among the Orthodox, it is still an exception. Among the non-Orthodox, it tends to be the rule. Since only 20 percent of the intermarried Jews are raising their children in the Jewish religion, one wonders whether American Judaism as we know it today is not going to collapse and vanish, to be replaced by a much smaller but much more Orthodox Judaism. Some Orthodox Jews may see it as a blessing in disguise. The overall loss for Jewish life could, however, be unfathomable.

On the face of it, the situation is much more secure in Israel. Most Israeli Jews take their religious affiliation for granted, and one Israeli Jew out of two is following an Orthodox or semi-Orthodox lifestyle. Intermarriage in Israel is low and confined, more often than not, to marriage with Russian Israelis of patrilinear Jewish descent. But things are actually more complex. If the old divide between secular and religious Israelis tends to recede, new divides are emerging among the Orthodox, between non-Zionist Haredim and Zionist Orthodox, and even between Haredi -leaning Zionist Orthodox and more liberal-leaning Zionist Orthodox.

These developments are compounded by the growth, and the growing Israeliness and assertiveness, of non-Jewish groups in Israel—Druze, Israeli Arabs, non-Jewish Asian or African immigrants, non-Jewish Russian immigrants—who by now amount to more than 20 percent of the 8. It is not unlikely at all that Jewish and non-Jewish subgroups in Israel will enter into strange new alignments in the coming decades.


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Some Haredim are considering a complete secession from the present Israeli society and tactical alliances with the Israeli Arabs. The center and left parties think of even more diverse coalitions. Indeed, trends can be adjusted or reversed. And the Jewish people have usually been very good at that. Still, one should heed some warnings. Yossi Klein Halevi Fifty years from now, the Jews will either become a God-centered people again or Judaism will be a dying faith. One of the great Jewish casualties of modernity has been Judaism.

The God-centered faith of the Jewish past has scarcely survived the combined onslaught of the European Enlightenment, the Holocaust, Americanization, Soviet Communism, and secular Zionism. Today Jewishness is about peoplehood, ritual observance, Torah study, tikkun olam , Zionism, defense against anti-Semitism—everything but God. Each of those facets of contemporary Jewish life is worthy in itself.

None of them—including ritual observance and Torah study—necessarily involves a conscious relationship with God. Re-sacralizing the Jewish people—restoring God to the center of Jewish life—involves two simultaneous processes. The first is placing God back at the center of our communal religious life, so that the primary purpose of prayer, for example, will no longer be strengthening Jewish community but establishing a living link with God. The second is defining the goal of a religious Jewish life as the creation of a personal connection with the Divine.

In other words, Judaism would become religious again. The explicit goal will be attaining a direct experience of the Divine Presence. Such institutions existed throughout premodern Jewish history—in ancient times as schools of the prophets, in medieval times, as schools of the kabbalists. The emphasis will no longer be on faith but knowledge—no longer believing in God but knowing God. Unlike previous Jewish schools for mystical development, the new schools will include exposure to the wisdom of other faiths.

The next step in the evolution of the interfaith encounter will be shifting from dialogue to shared spiritual experience. The future schools of Jewish wisdom will produce leaders able to both teach the seekers of other faiths and learn from them. The schools will most likely be based in the land of Israel.

The Jewish return home has created both the need and the possibility for a deep renewal of the Jewish spiritual tradition. Students will come from the Diaspora and return home to energize their communities. Let me be honest.

Quotations of G. K. Chesterton – Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton

I have no clue what the Jewish condition will be in the year In fact, I am hard-pressed to predict what things will look like tomorrow. Indeed, had I been asked to participate in a similar Commentary symposium in , could I have foreseen the Six-Day War only two years later, and its aftermath? Or the downfall of the USSR and its satellites, and the rebirth of Jewish communities in places where Jewish life was assumed to be nearing its end?

Or the remarkable flourishing of U. Or the recrudescence of anti-Semitism in Western Europe, fueled principally by elements of a growing Muslim presence and an extreme right-wing backlash to this immigration? Or the rescue of tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews, who for centuries dreamed of Zion but, in their isolation, thought they might be the only Jews on Earth?

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Or the toppling of the remaining barriers to full Jewish participation in American life, with Fortune executive suites, Ivy League presidencies, and presidential candidacies now wide open to Jews? Or the emergence of the Internet, creating previously unimaginable forms of Jewish connectivity, JDate among them?

First, Israel will continue to grow and thrive. True, the religious, social, and ethnic fault lines in Israeli society will not suddenly disappear. But the state will somehow manage them and blaze a trail in the 21st century as a global, sought-after leader in entrepreneurship, cybersecurity, water management, counterterrorism, renewable energy, medical research, and breakthrough technologies. On hearing this news, the French president told his citizens that the world would come to an end in 14 days, so there would be no more work, just joie de vivre, until the last minute.

Third, the universal vaccine against anti-Semitism is unlikely to be discovered by For a while, many thought that post—World War II liberal democracy was the antidote, but the rise of Judeophobia in several Western countries, abetted by the receding memory of the Holocaust and its lessons, means that all bets are off. To cite just one telling example, the fast-growing Haredi population at one end of the spectrum will be matched by the equally fast-growing population of Jews with an attenuated identity, two groups with essentially nothing in common.

David Harris is executive director of the American Jewish Committee. Richard Joel Prognostications can be alarming or comforting. In my experience, what transmits is a sense of community propelled by shared values centered around the guiding principles of Torah. But in order to create this Jewish future worth having, we must renew our commitment to mutual respect and tolerance. Differences will abound, including differences on principle. Debate and even schism will continue.

But the prerequisite for peoplehood requires that we practice respect and tolerance. We Jews are a family whose ideologies and passions differ tremendously on matters of policy, politics, social issues, and even faith. But we must learn to disagree agreeably. Our sense of peoplehood depends on it. The age of diversity is upon us. While there are goods that come from it, challenges also abound. It is harder to make peoplehood meaningful without education leading to a shared sense of history and I daresay destiny, language, values, practice, and faith.

It is important for organizations such as Yeshiva University to continue to produce leaders of texture. It is also important that Jewish education, both formal and experiential, be proffered to Jews of diverse backgrounds, leanings, and aspirations. Birthright is a valuable inoculation of peoplehood, but not sufficient to sustain it. Jewish camping, in whatever type of program, is important. Day schools, a renewed congregational-school structure, and continuing education are simply necessities.

Israel, the idea and reality, must remain a core element in the story of the Jews. I believe that in the future modern Orthodoxy will have to play a larger role in working for and with the broader Jewish community. In all denominations, those who are learned and passionate must seek to accept greater responsibility for serving and leading our community in all its dimensions.

We are increasingly a community of communities and should treat that as a strength. Finally, the federation system remains a necessary organizer of the community. Beyond a community chest, it needs to be the skeletal structure of the body politic of the Jewish people. I know we always look for radical solutions. But I must return to my premise: We need to behave civilly, to disagree agreeably, and to accept people as created in the image of G-d. Our sages in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yoma, teach that the First Temple was destroyed because of the three cardinal sins: idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed.

The story of the second destruction, in this oft-quoted Talmudic passage, is more complex. But how do we disagree? Hatred is baseless. It is cynical, it destroys, and it suffocates the light. Disagreement can be in the name of Heaven. Our differences are no excuse for the disdain of others. We can disagree agreeably. The answer that our condition in 50 years will be self-determined is not wholly true, but it is largely so. Will we be a people divided by our politics, our religious views, and our backgrounds, or will we be a people of diversity and common commitment, with some common boundaries?

I hope and believe we can be the latter. We strive not for uniformity but for unity. Uniformity is not achievable and is not the goal anyway. Unity, on the other hand, is not just a nicety but our oxygen. Without it we choke; with it we stride purposefully into the future. Richard Joel is president of Yeshiva University.

Jeremy Kalmanofsky Contemporary trends might not persist, and all bets are off in the case of plague or nuclear holocaust. But, barring such a disaster, I expect that in our international Jewish community will be fragmented among three sectors: the Amish; Jewish human beings; and descendants of Jews, who sporadically use Jewish technology.

Each group will articulate a unique approach to what Judaism means. Ultra-Orthodox Jews will continue to reproduce at very high rates and reproduce their culture both among the home-born and others attracted to their all-consuming way of life. Amish life requires ever more rigid enclaves, which will be partly physical and concentrated in homogenous neighborhoods. Being an Amish Jew means not only wearing the uniform and speaking the language, but also greatly, exclusively valuing Jewish tradition, which is by definition the only right way to live.

Perfect Jewish life cannot be attained in the diverse world; it requires retreating to a monochromatic micro-community. Fifty years hence, a huge percentage of those remaining Jews will join them behind these walls. But they will be irrelevant, since they will obsess over halakhic minutiae, like microscopic biota in the water, but have nothing to say about the wider world beyond Jewish observance. Next will be the Jewish human beings.

This demanding path aspires to remain faithfully Jewish by recognizing that our tradition is one particular response to universal questions. Jewish human beings will actually practice Judaism, behaving along a spectrum stretching from liberal Orthodoxy to reasonably traditional Reform. They will mark Shabbat and holidays, perform ethical commandments, and eat with discipline. They will study Jewish texts and worship in Hebrew.

They will belong to Am Israel globally and locally. Because this path is intellectually and spiritually demanding, there may not be too many Jewish human beings, at least in North America. But it is the only path worth walking. Finally, there will be descendants of Jews, people with a Jewish grandparent or two, who sporadically use Jewish technology. Massive exogamy and defections of the home-born prevent me from being too sanguine about how many Americans will identify as Jews in Already more than 2 million have a Jewish parent but do not consider themselves Jews.

Presumably that number will grow.

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I envision the descendants of Jews espousing two values I find difficult to affirm. First, Jewish identity will be increasingly post-ethnic. But—thanks to the pintele yid within and the inherent power of this magnificent tradition—many will still behave as Jews, at least sporadically. Some will eat matzah at seders with deracinated Jewish themes. Some will be moved to tears by the shofar. Many will marry beneath a chuppah, perhaps in ceremonies combining Jewish elements with other faith traditions. But at least some will be Jew-ish, which is better than nothing.

So we Jewish human beings will leave the light on for you. Each vertex of the existential triangle is a whole world, but at present we are interested in just two of its components, namely its ideals and its present historical processes. The logic of our brief discussion will, then, be this: Given the present historical processes that take place under a vertex of the existential triangle, to what extent will its ideal be significantly implemented during the coming 50 years? We start our survey near the vertex of the State of Israel, which is the youngest among the three vertices and in a sense the clearest.

The independence of the state was proclaimed in , but it is still in the process of being established as a fully fledged state. The ideal is fourfold: 1 to take the Jews out of Exile; 2 to take the Exile out of the Jews, i. Israeli society has been undergoing three important historical processes, among others. On a societal level, there have been integration processes of significant minorities into many parts of Israeli society. The Druze are almost fully integrated, whereas the ultra-Orthodox minority and the Arab minority have already made large steps in their integration processes.

On a cultural level, the borders have been blurred between religious and nonreligious forms of life. Elements of religious traditions are in the process of becoming natural elements in the culture of nonobservant persons. On a political level, a mixture of views, previously ascribed either to the left or to the right, is in the process of becoming dominant for most of the left, the center, and the right: The two-state solution of the Israeli—Palestinian conflict is the only justifiable and reliable one, and the future borders are not going to be those of but ones that include settlement clusters within Israel.

Given these processes, a years extrapolation will give us reasons to assume that part four of the ideal, peaceful coexistence, will be significantly closer to having been obtained. As a result, Israel will become more attractive than it was, and part one of the ideal, taking the Jews out of exile, will be significantly closer to a satisfactory level, which has never meant full implementation. The historical processes of minority integration and cultural mixture facilitate a process of shaping the nature of Israel as both a full democracy of high moral and ethical standards and a nation-state of the Jews, which takes on the responsibility to secure Jewish existence, continuity, and cultural advancement everywhere.

Part three of the ideal of Israel, shaping the internal framework, will thus be practically completed. Part two of the ideal, instilling a sense of national responsibility, will probably stay the way it is, kept intact by the historical processes we mentioned. Many men and women shoulder the State of Israel, in a most impressive manner, while many confine their national responsibility to being law-abiding citizens. This probably, but unfortunately, seems to be the natural distribution of responsibility among citizens of any new state and society.

That worked. So I went out and talked to women, mostly at coffee shops or on the street. I learned all kinds of interesting details I hadn't learned in the books about what makes an interaction fun for most women:. After a while, I could talk to women even without the brandy. And a little after that, I had my first one-night stand, which was great because it was exactly what she and I wanted.

I didn't feel engaged when I didn't know and didn't have much in common with the girl in my bed. I had gone in thinking all I wanted was sex, but it turned out that I wanted connection to another person. And sex. Rationality Lesson : Use empiricism and do-it-yourself science. Just try things. No, seriously. By this time my misgivings about the idea of "owning" another's sexuality had led me to adopt a polyamorous mindset for myself.

I saw many other people apparently happy with monogamy, but it wasn't for me. But if I was going to be polyamorous, I needed to deprogram my sexual jealousy, which sounded daunting. Sexual jealousy was hard-wired into me by evolution, right? It turned out to be easier than I had predicted. Tactics that helped me destroy my capacity for sexual jealousy include:. This lack of sexual jealousy came in handy when I later dated a polyamorous girl who was already dating two of my friends.

Rationality Lesson : Have a sense that more is possible. Know that you haven't yet reached the limits of self-modification. Try things. Let your map of what is possible be constrained by evidence, not by popular opinion. There might have been a learning curve, but by golly, at the end of all that DIY science and rationality training and scholarship I'm much more romantically capable, I'm free to take up relationships when I want, I know fashion well enough to teach it at rationality camps , and I can build rapport with almost anyone.

My hair looks good and I'm happy. If you're a nerd-at-heart like me, I highly recommend becoming a nerd about romance , so long as you read the right nerd books and you know the nerd rule about being empirical. Rationality is for winning. Here are the biggest changes I made:. And then she left the coffee shop, quickly. Later she explained: " You have my heart now, Luke. Gather data At the time, I didn't know how to optimize. Sanity-check yourself Before long, Alice was always pushing me to spend more time with her, and I was always pushing to spend more time studying psychology.

Body language and fashion matter because they communicate large packets of information about me at light speed, and are harder to fake than words. When women say "Be yourself," they mean "Don't be fake; be uniquely you.