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Unread 01-16-2007, 04:52 AM   #1
noahidelaws
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The Rambam and Science

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By the way the Rambam is a book of Halacha. But he also discusses science ... He has been wrong on some of the things he said regarding science.
Please elaborate.
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Unread 01-16-2007, 02:06 PM   #2
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Please elaborate.
The planets aren't attached to spheres, for starters. Even the most ardent geocentrist would have to admit that the Rambam was wrong on that.

In addition, even if you're a geocentrist, the orbits of the planets are elipses, not spheres, as the Rambam describes.

The Rambam states that the Earth is 40 times larger than the moon - in reality, the Earth is eighty times as massive as the moon. He also states that the Sun is about 170 times the size of the Earth -- that, too, is wrong, by quite a margin -- the Sun is about 333,000 times more massive than the Earth.

The Rambam states that there are no stars larger than the Sun. That's true to the observable eye, but is clearly false -- there are many stars that are much larger than the Sun.

He also states that there is no "star" smaller than Mercury. Well, that's true on the face of it -- a body that small cannot start nuclear fission. However, if you're going to posit that the Rambam used the term "kochav" to mean any celestial body (as you would have to, unless you are positing that Mercury and the other planets are stars too), then that statement is false, as there are plenty of celestial bodies smaller than Mercury.

All these statements of the Rambam can be found in Hil. Yesodei HaTorah chap. 3.

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Unread 01-16-2007, 02:13 PM   #3
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The planets aren't attached to spheres, for starters. Even the most ardent geocentrist would have to admit that the Rambam was wrong on that.

In addition, even if you're a geocentrist, the orbits of the planets are elipses, not spheres, as the Rambam describes.

The Rambam states that the Earth is 40 times larger than the moon - in reality, the Earth is eighty times as massive as the moon. He also states that the Sun is about 170 times the size of the Earth -- that, too, is wrong, by quite a margin -- the Sun is about 333,000 times more massive than the Earth.

The Rambam states that there are no stars larger than the Sun. That's true to the observable eye, but is clearly false -- there are many stars that are much larger than the Sun.

He also states that there is no "star" smaller than Mercury. Well, that's true on the face of it -- a body that small cannot start nuclear fission. However, if you're going to posit that the Rambam used the term "kochav" to mean any celestial body (as you would have to, unless you are positing that Mercury and the other planets are stars too), then that statement is false, as there are plenty of celestial bodies smaller than Mercury.

All these statements of the Rambam can be found in Hil. Yesodei HaTorah chap. 3.

The Wolf

Yea, but even that's pretty impressive for 1,000 year old science.
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Unread 01-16-2007, 02:26 PM   #4
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Yea, but even that's pretty impressive for 1,000 year old science.
Maybe, maybe not. But that's not the point. The point is that there are those who believe that the Rambam was not wrong in any of his scientific statements.

If you want to say the Rambam was a man ahead of his time, then that's fine - we can debate that point. But to say that the Rambam wasn't wrong in his astronomy at all is simply ludicrous.

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Unread 01-16-2007, 06:37 PM   #5
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The moon isn't made of gas, as far as modern scientists know (the bunch of crackpots that they are).

Of course, we have to realize that 1) nature changes (so maybe in times of Rambam the moon was takeh made of gas), 2) modern science does not rely on certainties but only on probabilities, so it is only 99.999% probable that moon isn't made of gas; on the other hand, everything that Rambam wrote was guided by h"p, so he can't be wrong, even if he himself said (for kiruv purposes surely) that sages of Torah may be wrong in the matters of science. Which makes it 100% true that moon is made of gas.
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Unread 01-16-2007, 07:32 PM   #6
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Flying Axe, please, please, please tell me that you are kidding or being sarcastic.

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The moon isn't made of gas, as far as modern scientists know (the bunch of crackpots that they are).
Twelve people have walked on the moon. It isn't made of gas.

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Of course, we have to realize that 1) nature changes (so maybe in times of Rambam the moon was takeh made of gas),
You think that the moon changed from gas to rock in the last 800 years?!! How would it do this?

Even if it did change from gas to rock, it's appearance would change. Gaseous planets don't have craters. You would think that if suddenly the moon changed from a gaseous body to a ball of solid rock, someone would have noticed the changed appearance.

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2) modern science does not rely on certainties but only on probabilities, so it is only 99.999% probable that moon isn't made of gas;
No, it's 100% because we can actually look at it and see that it's made of rock, complete with fissures and craters.

We've sent probes up there which return data showing that the moon is made of rock.

We've sent people up there who have walked on the surface and returned moon rocks back to earth.


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on the other hand, everything that Rambam wrote was guided by h"p, so he can't be wrong, even if he himself said (for kiruv purposes surely) that sages of Torah may be wrong in the matters of science. Which makes it 100% true that moon is made of gas.
So, how do you then explain away all the data indicating that the moon isn't made of gas???

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Unread 01-16-2007, 11:49 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by qgh http://www.chabadtalk.com/forum/imag...s/viewpost.gif
By the way the Rambam is a book of Halacha. But he also discusses science ... He has been wrong on some of the things he said regarding science.


Wolf wrote
Please elaborate.
You allready did.

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amoretz wrote:
Yea, but even that's pretty impressive for 1,000 year old science
It is impressive. The fact that Rambam or chazal were sometimes wrong on things we know 1000 or 2000 years later does not take away from their greatness.
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Unread 01-17-2007, 12:21 AM   #8
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So, how do you then explain away all the data indicating that the moon isn't made of gas???
well, that's your problem. The Torah is absolute(ly) true.
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Unread 01-17-2007, 08:28 AM   #9
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well, that's your problem. The Torah is absolute(ly) true.

There is no problem.
If the Rambam were to claim that his source for his knowledge on science was a masoret from sinai we would have a problem.
However that is not the case.
For those who realize that the Rambam's knowledge of science reflected his knowledge in the period which he lived then we don't have a problem.
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Unread 01-17-2007, 10:18 AM   #10
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You allready did.

Actually, it wasn't me who wrote "please elaborate." It was the OP.

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It is impressive. The fact that Rambam or chazal were sometimes wrong on things we know 1000 or 2000 years later does not take away from their greatness.
I agree, and I want to make it clear that I am not bashing the Rambam. He was a great man and along with Rashi is foremost among the Rishonim. But that doesn't mean that every scientific statement that he made is accurate. The fact of the matter is that many of his astronomical observations in Hil. Yesodei HaTorah has since been proven wrong. In short, the Rambam relied (not without cause) on the science of the day - which is fine - but it's not infallable.

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Unread 01-17-2007, 10:22 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by a tomim View Post
well, that's your problem. The Torah is absolute(ly) true.
So, you believe the moon is made of gas??!!

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Unread 01-17-2007, 12:58 PM   #12
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Come on, most of these claims regarding Rambam being wrong, are coming from merely wrongly interpreting what he writes. For example, regarding sun's size vs. earth, he is talking regarding diameter, not the mass or volume, and if you talk about certain level of protuberanzas, the ration is well correct. (I read it in Rebbe's comment, brought up as a footnote to Kuzari)
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Unread 01-17-2007, 01:05 PM   #13
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Come on, most of these claims regarding Rambam being wrong, are coming from merely wrongly interpreting what he writes. For example, regarding sun's size vs. earth, he is talking regarding diameter, not the mass or volume, and if you talk about certain level of protuberanzas, the ration is well correct. (I read it in Rebbe's comment, brought up as a footnote to Kuzari)
No, it's not correct.

The radius of the Moon is 1737km.
The radius of the Earth is 6372 km -- That's more like a factor of four, not forty.
The diameter of the sun is equal to 109 Earths, not 170.
The Rambam was wrong in all these measurements.

And he was also wrong in the other matters I presented as well.

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Unread 01-17-2007, 02:39 PM   #14
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when people recall your yahrtzeit (after 120 yrs) 800 yrs later...

sounds like talk for Aishdas.
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Unread 01-17-2007, 02:49 PM   #15
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The diameter of the sun is equal to 109 Earths, not 170.
Sun is not a solid body, and not all the levels and layers of gases are taken into consideration when producing this figure. As I said if you take into consideration protrusion of some protuberances, it will be indeed around 166 - 170 times bigger than the earth.
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Unread 01-17-2007, 02:56 PM   #16
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when people recall your yahrtzeit (after 120 yrs) 800 yrs later...
Which has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of what I've said.

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Unread 01-17-2007, 03:03 PM   #17
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Sun is not a solid body, and not all the levels and layers of gases are taken into consideration when producing this figure. As I said if you take into consideration protrusion of some protuberances, it will be indeed around 166 - 170 times bigger than the earth.
According to current measurements, the diameter of the sun is 109 times that of Earth. That, to the best of my knowledge, includes everything up to and including the photosphere. To say that the not all of the layers of the sun were included would mean that the diameter was even smaller compared to the earths, not larger. IOW, if you say that only half the sun is included, then the diameter of the sun becomes only 54.5 earths. In order to arrive at 170, you'd have to expand the sun (or shrink the earth).

In addition, my statements about the moon are still correct - and the Rambam was wrong.

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Unread 01-18-2007, 09:28 AM   #18
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It has everything to do with it... otherwise the sefarim would not have sold that much or stayed in print if people focussed on details and not the timeless klalos..
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Unread 01-18-2007, 12:12 PM   #19
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It has everything to do with it... otherwise the sefarim would not have sold that much or stayed in print if people focussed on details and not the timeless klalos..
For heaven's sake.

I'm not saying that we should all toss out our copies of the Yad and discard the Rambam entirely. What I'm saying is that when it came to the scientific statements that he made, he was simply wrong - as he relied on the science of the day. That has no impact on the rest of the Yad. The rest of the Yad is a great work and deserves to be studied. Even the mistaken portions deserve to be studied as it gives background to the Rambam himself and the environment he lived in.

But the fact that he's remembered eight centuries after his death has no bearing on the accuracy of his scientific statements in the Yad. By applying your standard, we should all be following the ******ian Bible since it is far better known throughout the world than the Yad for a longer period of time.

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Unread 01-18-2007, 12:57 PM   #20
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by your standards not mine...

Context.... or the lamb will eat you.
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Unread 01-18-2007, 01:10 PM   #21
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by your standards not mine...

Context.... or the lamb will eat you.
No, those were your standards. You stated (implied, actually -- if I'm wrong, please feel free to correct) that the Rambam's scientific words are true because we remember him and study him eight centuries after his death. If that's the standard to be applied, then everything the subject of the ******ian bible stated must be true too, since his words are studied far more throughout the world than the Rambam's and have been for a much longer period of time.

Obviously, that's not the position that I hold, nor, I suspect, is it the position that you hold. Therefore, you obviously don't hold that the reason that the Rambam's scientific statements are true are because he's been studied for eight centuries.

The fact that he's been studied for eight centuries means nothing regarding the accuracy of his statements. They stand or fall based on their own merit - not the passage of time and the author's popularity.

If the best argument that you can give me that the Rambam's statements that I quoted above are correct is because we still know when his yartzeit is eight centuries later, then that's a pretty weak argument - there are others who are better known for a longer period of time whose words are clearly false.

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Unread 01-18-2007, 03:11 PM   #22
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Suspicions correct.... I did not imply the such.

and I am not arguing that either.
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Unread 01-18-2007, 03:13 PM   #23
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Suspicions correct.... I did not imply the such.

and I am not arguing that either.
Thanks for the correction. Now, then, can you please explain exactly what your position is?

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Unread 01-18-2007, 03:15 PM   #24
Gevurah
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Oy at least i did not get quoted on your blog...

how could yoiu listen to such triefe music.

the Rambam didnot?!
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Unread 01-18-2007, 03:17 PM   #25
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Oy at least i did not get quoted on your blog...

how could yoiu listen to such triefe music.

the Rambam didnot?!
Thanks. If you want to debate my choice of music, we can do that - on another thread or via email. But let's stick to the topic here.

What, exactly, is your opinion on the Rambam's statements of science?

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