Questioning the Scientific Accuracy of the Talmudic Sages: Does Spontaneous Generation Exist?
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Senior honors thesis
Abstract: The objective of this thesis is to discuss differences in Talmudic and modern science, to understand the Jewish philosophical issues implicit within the seeming discrepancies, and to examine whether or not Jewish law is affected in light of these inconsistencies. I most closely examine the famous Talmudic discussion, rooted in Tractate Shabbat, that appears to validate the occurrence of Spontaneous Generation, a scientific theory that is considered obsolete and erroneous in the contemporary scientific community. I review both the scientific history and modern scientific literature regarding the theory of Spontaneous Generation, and also discuss the Talmudic view of this phenomenon. I then develop three categorical approaches to resolving the seeming incongruity between Talmudic and Contemporary Science in light of the Jewish conviction that the Torah, or Bible, is divine in origin and cannot be mistaken. These approaches are as follows: either both Talmudic and contemporary science are correct, Talmudic science is right and today's science is wrong, or Talmudic science is wrong and today's science is correct. An analysis of each of these three categories, and the sub-categories within them, leads to the conclusion that the third approach is the most robust and reasonable understanding of the matter.
Isaacs, Shirah. Questioning the Scientific Accuracy of the Talmudic Sages: Does Spontaneous Generation Exist? Presented to the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for Completion of the Program Stern College for Women Yeshiva University August 23, 2019.