the Rambam in yesodei torah says that stars are creatures with intellect. how do we reconcile this with modern science which says that they are merely inanimate balls of hydrogen and helium gas.

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    He also thought Neptune didn't exist... – Double AA Jul 11 '13 at 7:02
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    Does saying something has intellect necessitate it is 'living'? – Zachariah Jul 11 '13 at 13:14
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    This question would be stronger if you'd edit in why you believe that it's necessary to reconcile the Rambam's cosmology with that of modern science. – Isaac Moses Jul 11 '13 at 14:09
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    Well, modern science also says humans are balls of oxygen and carbon and the like, yet Jews believe in a soul. Perhaps the Rambam believed stars have some spiritual component analogous to a human's soul, and this is what he meant. As you haven't cited or quoted the Rambam, it's hard to tell. −1. – msh210 Jul 11 '13 at 18:00
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    @DoubleAA, so you think the contradiction the asker is noting is between inanimate (=nonmoving) and having intellect? What does one have to do with the other? (I'm really asking the asker, not you. Asker, please edit your question to clarify what you mean to ask.) – msh210 Jul 12 '13 at 7:12

The Rambam himself addresses your question. He writes the following in Moreh Nevuchim regarding the science in the Gemara:

Moreh Nevuchim (3:14):

אל תדרוש ממני להתאים את כל ענייני האסטרונומיה שהם ציינו אל המצב כפי שהוא, כי המתמטיקה היתה לקויה באותם זמנים. והם לא דנו בזאת מבחינת שהם מוסרים אמרות אלה מפי הנביאים, אלא מבחינת שהם היו חכמי אותן תקופות במקצועות אלה או שמעו אותן מפי חכמי אותן תקופות.

Do not ask me to reconcile all matters of astronomy that they (the sages) stated about astronomy with the actual reality, for the science of those days was deficient, and they did not speak out of traditions from the prophets regarding these matters. Rather because they were the wise of that period in these matters or because they heard them from the wise of that period.

As such, the Rambam would tell you not to try to reconcile his approaches with our conventional scientific understanding. Like the sages, he was basing his teachings on the knowledge of the philospophers and mathematicians of his own time.

  • -1 Although your reference to the Moreh is valuable, it is not relevant to the question. The Rambam is referring to the Chachmei haTalmud, not to his own Mishne Torah. It is inconceivable that Rambam would codify something in Mishne Torah that he did not believe was correct. – Yoni May 20 '14 at 4:13
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    @Yoni - it is impossible that chazal would either – Yehuda May 20 '14 at 10:47
  • Chazal were relying ,according to Rambam, on the best science of their times which they had every reason to believe was correct. Rambam though believed the science of the time of Chazal was in error and would not have included it. – Yoni May 20 '14 at 13:17
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    @Yoni - So, while the Rambam would have been willing to believe that chazal's science was archaic, he would be unwilling to acknowledge that his own science was archaic had he known what we know today? – Yehuda May 20 '14 at 15:47
  • I apparently misunderstood your answer... It seemed to me that you were implying that what the Rambam wrote was based on chachmei hatalmud which according to the moreh is incorrect. If you make a minor edit and change" the time period in question" to "his own time time" it will clarify it somewhat. And I'll up vote your answer too :-) – Yoni May 20 '14 at 16:07

When they landed a man on the moon, one great rabbi (R' Yaakov Kamenetsky, I think?) observed: "well Rambam was quoting Aristotelian philosophy and thought the moon had an intellect; Ramban was a kabbalist and said it's a ball of mineral. Looks like Kabbala just beat Aristotelian philosophy."

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    You don't need Kabbalah to beat Aristotelian philosophy. – Double AA Jul 11 '13 at 7:26
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    I heard that that was the only time that R' Yaakov Kamenetsky watched TV, and it was for the purpose of seeing with his own eyes which side of that dispute was correct. – Isaac Moses Jul 11 '13 at 14:07
  • @IsaacMoses and Shalom, One of my Rabbeim quoted a Rav who said of the lunar landing, "Don't believe everything you see on TV." – Seth J Jul 11 '13 at 16:35
  • @shalom not exactly how Rav Yaakov wrote it,but it can be found in his sfer Emes Lyaakov page 15 in Bereishis. – sam Jul 12 '13 at 7:47
  • who says astrology is from aristotle? (could well be he got it from us) there's quite a lot of stuff in the torah itself on it which was well before aristotle – ray Jul 12 '13 at 7:51

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