How could the Jews grow so fast.

January 26, 2007

A common question about the exodus is how could the Jews have grown so fast. To look at just how fast it is I’m going to look at how fast their growth rate was compared to the fastest period of growth in the world, the Baby Boom. From 1950 to 2000 the world population rose from approximately 2.5 billion to 6 billion. This is a growth rate of approximately 2%.  The Jews grew from 65 to 600000 in 210 years. This is a growth rate of around 4.5%. If you take the various midrashic accounts of the growth rate you get figures of 5.2% if 1/5 survived 6.4% if 1/50 survived and 7.6% if 1/500 survived.  The non-midrashic growth rate is perhaps possible but not over that length of time. However it seems unlikely that these were the only people going down to Egypt. Jacob was rich and surely had some servants. It is entirely plausible that they had many servants who later were counted among the Jewish people. If they only had a Baby Boom growth rate they would have required 9300 servants a highly dubious number. However a 3% growth rate would have meant 1100 servants unlikely, but not impossible.  Another strong possibility is that the Eiruv Rav made up a large number of that 600,000 for instance if there wer 530 servants and a 2.5% growth rate then the Eiruv Rav makes up around 5/6 of the population. The other problem is that around 1 in 20 males was a first born at the time of the census in the desert this strongly suggests 40 children in a family (Thanks Rachel for pointing this out to me) however if the Eiruv Rav made up 500,000 of the 600,000 and assuming that the Eiruv Rav had no firstborn sons you get closer to ten children a family with that method.

This whole approach is dubious at best and definitely a dochek, but it seems to be less of a dochek then the idea that women were popping out 6 kids at a time, the Jews were growing around 3 times the rate of the fastest documented growth in human history, and that each family had fourty children.

I would ne very interested in hearing any other approach which gets around these problems.

This argument really annoys me.

January 25, 2007

    Whenever someone wants to make a really clever point about illegal immigration they invariably bring up the fact that  Mexico closes its border to illegals from the south. The main reaction is, so what. Mexico is  a terribly  run country, In fact there is a good argument that on any controversial economic issue the best solution is to do the exact opposite of whatever Mexico does. Mexico could improve its economy by letting in more immigrants although not that much. Besides what do the two things have to do with each other. Either strictly enforcing our immigration laws is a good thing or its a bad thing. It makes no difference what Mexico does.

In unrelated news Michael Savage doesn’t see the contradiction in saying that Ford and GM are run terribly and the statement that the federal government should slap on huge tariffs on Toyotas and other foreign cars. To make his point he brought up the electronics industry. Unfortunately he chose to bring up one of the great sucess stories of free trade. We have cheap and high quality electronics now and no need to produce it ourselves. Where’s the problem?

The State of the Union

January 24, 2007

I had planned a full live commentary on the President’s speech, but my keyboard gave out, Anyway here’s what I had down until then.

8:12- The speech starts with some little pap about there being a female speaker of the house. Side Point- the portrayal of Nancy Pelosi in the pre-speech was as a soccer mom who came to Washington. Then about a minute in you find out that she is the daughter of a house member and from a big family

8:18- Bush’s first “real” proposal, balancing the budget, he seems to be coming pretty clearly on the side of Porkbuster’s with proposals that seem to go much farther than either bill.

8:20- Bush starts on the big third rail, entitlements, but he leaves it extremely vague, enough so to get solid applause.

8:21- Vouchers come out early, but nothing is going to happen with that. Aside from that he mentions some basic reforms suggested all the time but neverr acted upon. Also he wants NCLB reauthorized.

8:23- The first reform seems decent enough, 15,000 a year tax deduction for a family of four.
The second reform also seems good with money to states who are trying new tactics because through variety we suceed.
The medical law care reform seems like it could be a good idea if done properly. However, I doubt that any law would feature these two key concepts. 1. Pain and suffering should be limited at a level less than 100k 2. Punitive damages are a stupid concept by malpractice because there is no edge to bad care.

8:26- Immingration reform: Nothing new here just the same old shpiel which will be ignored by everyone except those who agree.

8:28- His energy proposals are the same as last years, with the same slavering support of ethanol and he ends with a goal that will be either met or unmet regardless of how Congress acts.


How we are taught

January 22, 2007

     You may remember the story about how during the plague of blood the Jews were unaffected. You may remember hearing how if a Jew drank from one side of a cup and the Egyptians the other one would drink blood, the other water. You may not have heard the verse it was derived from, but the translation is loosely, “But in the land of Goshen there was water.”

However there is no such verse. In fact the clear implication of the story is that only during the ones specifically mentioned was there no harm done to the Jews during the plagues. I think that this illustrates a elementary problem with the way chumash (and Judaism) is taught. Until you reach high school or in some cases later, there is no division between Torah and a commentator’s opinion. A consequence is that Rashi’s explanation, which was more meant for common explanation than pure scholarship, is regarded as the gospel.

I don’t think that 3rd graders should learn Ramban, but it wouldn’t hurt to maybe learn Rashbam or Ibn Ezra as a secondary commentator  so that children understand that there isn’t only one possible way to understand the Torah.

This problem with Rashi is particularly accentuated while learning Gemorah.  Because while you learn Gemarah Rashi is constantly inserting his subtle biases into the explanation, and, since you can’t understand the original Aramaic very well, you find it very hard to comprehend what Tosfos says.

Unfortunately the trend is not the way I would like it to be with the emphasis being on  accepting one path as the only possible true one. Besides Rashi is easy to teach because he never really has controversy and you don’t really have to think. Children should either be taught Chumash straight or with more than one pshat commentary when necessary.

I’m really surprised that anyone is defending Barbra Boxer here

January 15, 2007

I really didn’t notice the story about Boxer and Condoleeza Rice. I heard something on talk radio, but it was in the backround and so it passed me by. Then I noticed this article in the San Francisco Chronicle. Amazingly it described Boxer as speaking truth to power and that the right-wing conspiracy was after her for criticizing the war. I guess that this argument is a direct extension of the chickenhawk argument one with equally small validity. Do the Democrats really think that only people directly involved can make decisions because if that’s the case then you can forget democracy. The other possibility is that Boxer tried to use Rice’s unmarried status like Kerry tried to use Mary Cheney. It is entirely possible that she thinks that the fundamentalist evangelicals will suddenly turn against the war when they realize that Rice is not a married woman. Or she could have just said something stupid because she wanted to get her face on TV. Everything is possible except for Boxer having spoken trurth to power.

Why I dislike many of the Science and Torah combination books.

January 10, 2007

I’m involved in a science contest which is studying astronomy. We did the section on cosmology and the Big Bang. Traditionally there are two ways to approach the Big Bang 1. It’s false and made up by G-dless scientists or 2. It’s proof of G-d.
What struck me was the discussion of the horizon and flatness paradox. Basically the horizon paradox is that there is no reason for space at the opposite ends of the galaxy to be the same and the flatness problem is why is space so perfectly flat. Of course in a Torah and Science book these would be seized upon as extraordinary coincidences which require G-d. Some figure would be given of the chances of it occuring randomly which would be at around 1 in 10^20 for each one. It seems such a precarious way to rest all your proofs because our theories seem to explain more and more of these coincidences as natural outgrowths from the universe’s creation.

On a separate note the previous chapter had the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of in astronomy. Astronomers believed that they had found a double quasar. However, they found it was one quasar which was diffracted by a dark galaxy in its way. The real cool thing is that the two quasar images we see are at different distances from the Earth. So if we see something happening on one image we see the same thing happenning on the other image a few days later.

Update: It was late when I wrote this so I left out the most important part. Science doesn’t like amazing coincidences unlike these books which welcome them. Coincidence is used as proof of G-d while in science it indicates that the theory isn’t done well enough. The mindset of the reconcilliation books leads to know progress because they are willing to accept amazing coincidences as part of their theory of the world.

I wasn’t planning to post but,

January 9, 2007

I just heard the most outrageous statement on Hugh Hewitt’s show. He was interviewing Jim Demint and he asked him about his endorsement of Romney so early. After some standard Q&A Hugh asked Demint about Romney’s stance on life issues which have changed since he decided to run for President. Demint’s answer showed an amazing lack of shame. His answer was that Romney engaged in a scientific study of when life begins and decided that life begins at conception. Not content with this bit of cheek, Demint continued by mentioning how it shows great character by Romney to be able to look at the science and change his mind.

I still like Romney, but it makes me sick to hear his supporters try and avoid the fact that he changed his opinion on certain issues for political gain. This isn’t unique, but I just wish that his supporters would have a bit more honesty. If they would just say he changed his mind ‘d be happy, but to say that he changed his mind based on a careful look of the science is too much spin for me to accept.