Yeridos HaDoros vs. Scientific Progress
I'm sorry for not posting sooner. There is a lot to discuss, but I've been very busy and haven't had the time to give these topics the justice they deserve. For starters, there have been some excellent comments left here, some of which I intend to develop into full posts. (I've always received excellent feedback via email, but it seems more and more people are leaving intelligent comments for all to see.) I also have several important posts in the works, a few of which I have even alluded to in my blog.
However, since I only have time for a brief post now, I'd thought I'd ask a classic question that I recently discussed with someone.
Anyone who learns is constantly amazed at how deep an understanding of Torah the previous generations had. The previous generations in turn felt the same away about their predecessors. And the situation was always that way. There are statements in Chazal of how much more the previous generations knew than they did. It therefore seems extraordinarily safe to say that the sum knowledge of Torah that we have today is but a tiny fraction of what existed at the time of Mattan Torah. Yeridos HaDoros at work.
With science however the opposite phenomenon is at work. Each generation stands on the shoulders of the previous generations and so our knowledge of science grows and grows. It is true that the situation wasn't always that way. One could argue that scientific progress went on very long vacation from the ancient Greeks all the way to the Renaissance. Since the advent of the scientific revolution though not only has the sum total of scientific knowledge been growing, but you can even make a strong case that the rate of growth is increasing.
Each of these points is somewhat self evident, but when you put them together it leads to a disturbing conclusion. When Torah was first given it represented at a bare minimum a very large part of the sum total of human knowledge. When you think about what the competition was, and how abstract and broad Torah is, I think it very safe to say that Torah was the overwhelming majority of mankind's knowledge. However, since then the percentage of mankind's knowledge which consists of Torah has been declining. Even if we could somehow stop Yereidos HaDoros, the progress of science alone would mean the Torah represents a smaller percentage of mankind's knowledge each year. This may lead some to conclude that Torah is Chas V'Shalom becoming less relevant to our lives, as it consists of a smaller and smaller percentage of the totality of what we know.
There are several ways of dealing with this question, depending on your Hashkafic point of view. I didn't have time for a full post, so I thought I'd throw out this question and learn more about the people who email me and comment here. In general, I try to only bring up Hashkafic points on this blog if I feel they have relevance to the Slifkin ban. Even though this post is a slight detour, it is no exception in that regard. Try to see how each side of the Slifkin debate would answer it, but don't let that one issue color your answer. The best answer emailed to me will receive bragging rights.