Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Blog Groupthink

I was speaking with one of my rebbeim regarding science and torah. During the discussion I brought up R. Feldman's letter and mentioned that I found it condescending when he said that he would address the questions in a future article.

My rebbe asked me why I thought that. Why not assume that he meant to write such an article, that due to subsequent events and pressures, he just hasn't had the time to write it.

A valid question. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt? I give it to others, people whom I have far less respect for.

The letter wasn't written in a vacum. The background for the letter, the pressure to come up with a response to arguments, and other factors all point to this being a...unique situation. The letter doesn't address the underlying fundamental questions, and lots of time has passed since its publication. In that case, I'm not sure I'd give anyone the benefit of the doubt.

One of my rebbeim, who hadn't really followed the affair, had a different take on the letter. Valid or not, it triggered the realization of groupthink in the blogosphere. We like to say that if there's a defender to the banners, with coherent arguments, raise your head and be heard. We'd love to hear it. Many have wondered how they can follow some rabbonim after the Slifkin Debacle.

To a certain extent, that's just our justification for holding to our views. If you have an opposing view, speak up. But that's an external reason. It doesn't prove the consistency or correctness of our views, just that no one is standing in opposition. An opposition which, for the most part, isn't as technologically advanced as we are.

So are we following the herd? Or are we a bunch of individual goats who happen to be going in the same direction? I pray its the latter, but we should be careful its not the former.