On the other hand, for Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, Rambam's position on demons would be extremely relevant.
This is because Rabbi Meiselman denies that the quotation above from the Guide demonstrates that Rambam believed Chazal to be limited to the science of their era.
insists - extremely unreasonably, as I have demonstrated previously - that Rambam was only saying that Chazal erred in a few limited cases of astronomy.
With everything else that Chazal said, Rabbi Meiselman claims, Rambam believes that Chazal were correct.
Furthermore, the existence of demons, as the Vilna Gaon makes clear, is inherently related to other supernatural phenomena such as segulos.
Rabbi Meiselman devotes an entire chapter to the topic of Rambam and segulos, which he states to be of relevance to the topic of Torah and science, since it demonstrates Rambam's views regarding non-scientific phenomena.
Rabbi Meiselman claims that Rambam did indeed believe in the efficacy of segulos - and he
further argues that this is the "mainstream view.
However, while Rashba - who was passionately committed to the existence of non-scientific phenomena - did indeed ascribe this view to Rambam, numerous others understood that Rambam denied the efficacy of segulos.
In a recent post at Torah Musings, Rabbi Gil Student states that although Rabbi Meiselman claims that Rashba's interpretation of Rambam "was adopted by many other authorities," Rabbi Meiselman does not name any, and Rabbi Student does not know of any.
Rabbi Student further points out that despite Rabbi Meiselman's claim that the view of Radvaz, that Rambam denied the efficacy of segulos, was "not adopted by any other major interpreter of the Rambam," it was actually echoed by no less than the Chida and the Vilna Gaon, amongst others.
I do not know if Rabbi Meiselman considers himself wiser than the Vilna Gaon and all the other authorities who stated that Rambam denied the existence of demons and segulos.
However, even if he
considers them to be wrong, he
should still acknowledge the existence of their views.
The reason why he
doesn't acknowledge their views is obvious.
It's because they fatally flaw his
entire book, which is dedicated to claiming that no mainstream figure ever held that Chazal could be wrong in their claims about the world.
There are numerous examples of intellectual dishonesty in Rabbi Moshe Meiselman's book Torah, Chazal and Science.
Rabbi Meiselman likewise insists that Chazal were not omniscient or infallible (p. 33).
undermines this claim in two ways.
First is that he
distinguishes between cases where Chazal make definitive statements and when they make tentative statements.
In cases where they make firm statements, Rabbi Meiselman claims that is inconceivable that they would have done so unless they were certain that they were correct and that there was no possibility of their being in error.
states: "A major thesis of this book is that if Chazal make a definitive statement, whether regarding halachah or realia, it means that they know it to be unassailable" (p. 107).
given reason for this is that "Whenever Chazal make unqualified statements it indicates that regarding those particular issues the information encoded in the Torah
or the methodology for extracting it had not yet been lost.
Furthermore, as noted, it is significant that we see that Rabbi Meiselman in fact considers Chazal infallible.
For the most a person can do is to believe that something he
says to be unassailable.
You can never know that something you say is unassailable - unless you are infallible.
However, I want to concentrate on the theme of this post, which is intellectual dishonesty.
We have here a twofold recipe for intellectual dishonesty.
First is that engendered by Rabbi Meiselman considering definitive statements to be infallible, and only non-definitive statements to be potentially errant.
The result of this is that when faced with a statement about the natural world in the Gemara that is obviously incorrect, he
, and those who follow his
approach, are forced to classify it as a non-definitive statement - no matter how unreasonable it is to do so.
In other words, he
has to argue that a certain claim (i.e. that a given statement of Chazal was only tentative) is definitely true, even if under other circumstance the evidence would not warrant such a claim.
That is a recipe for intellectual dishonesty.
The second recipe for intellectual dishonesty comes when we have taken Rabbi Meiselman's step and relegated a statement to being tentative instead of definitive.
Here, Rabbi Meiselman agrees that it can potentially be in error; however, he maintains that it is forbidden for us lowly denizens of the 21st century to actually point out such things:
Rabbi Meiselman admits that some of Chazal's tentative statements may be in error, but he says that it is forbidden for us to explain the Gemara in that way.
Reader Akiva Cohen neatly encapsulated the problem with Kornreich's claim, which equally applies to Rabbi Meiselman:
"In other words: Chazal are not infallible, but we need to treat them like they are.
So even though that may lead to non-emes interpretations of the Gemara (since we may be interpreting the Gemara wrongly in order to avoid claiming "Chazal erred" in a situation in which Chazal actually erred), that's better than saying "Chazal erred."
This, by the way, strikes me as the worst of both worlds: take all the supposed "faith-destroying" impact of acknowledging that Chazal were fallible when relying on their own intellect, and add to it the new (and more legitimately) faith-destroying acknowledgement that your interpretations of Gemara are not driven by emes, but by an express denial of a possibility that you acknowledge is a possibility."
So, to sum up, Rabbi Meiselman has given two recipes for intellectual dishonesty.