Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Weighing the F[a]C[ts]

My anonymous friend is back. I am guessing that he is the same commenter who originally commented on the Kuf is for Kiddush Hashem post. This time, in response to my "challenge" he presented a list of very substantial points. I very much commend him for "talking tachlis" and especially for the time and effort it takes to write a quality comment, which it truly is. All the more so for presenting a published source for the (RGS variation) of the vort of the 3 kufs. I might comment that I even like R' Gedaliah Schorr's explanation better!

First allow me to repost his comment in full:

1) One of the symptoms of autism (see DSM IV) is "stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language". We do not see such language patterns in FC. This fact, has not been disputed by the FC cult in Israel- indeed they parade it as proof that the FC is coming from another world!

2)We have no mesorah for FC.

3) I have emailed one of the big proponents of FC and have asked for scientific evidence. I got references to three articles. Two of them were merely case studies that appeared in practitioner journals. They have no scientific value except to arouse curiosity- they can be easily dismissed. The third article was a real study, but was woefully inadequate. Not only was the process flawed, the results were underwhelming as well. In any case, a single article, no matter how solid, is not proof until the experiment can be repeated. The scientific community has rejected FC.

4) . It doesn't seem that this particular vort was published in OG.

5) Observation: Even if it can be proven that FC is genuine, the messages would necessarily not come from the autistic. It would come from those disseminating the message. What I mean is that there's little chiddushim in these messages. The messages have the same content as a typical contemporary schmuz, albeit without the prophetic and apocalyptic overtones (though even these overtones are heard from some kiruv organizations).

We can imagine what the reaction would be if the messages were not normative. Suppose Binyamin were to start advocating hyper-modesty, demanding that women wear veils. Or that the general population should start fasting Mondays and Tuesdays. Or that we should say Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut. The FC phenomenon would be dismissed as crackpot nonsense- the agenda of cranks, and others may even claim FC comes from the Sitra Achra...

The only reason we hear about Binyamin, is because there are people with an agenda to get that particular message out. (It's not a wrong agenda.) Any FC not conforming to the desired message would be rightfully suppressed. Thus, the messages we do get to hear, are to some extent not from the autistics.

July 15, 2009 2:41 AM

Before I continue, let me restate my personal position:

I personally have not studied the subject enough nor heard out a complete enough gamut of arguments from either side of the issue to take a firm stand. Thus, I will not hold aloft a banner proclaiming that FC is genuine and deserves to be blindly followed. I remain open to the possibility that the whole thing may be a big hoax. Thus, what I present will not be "Responding" to his points but rather "Addressing" them as a devil's advocate.

That said, let us take his points very legitimately and put them on the "against" pan of the judgement scale. And let's see what we can put on the other side. I know that it is more than clear from my tone and my writings that I am very much leaning toward accepting it.


My personal judgements are based on a combination of "empirical" facts, fundamental beliefs, and basic logic, in other words, what does or does not make sense.

  • In the "empirical facts" department, its an Evolution vs. Creation battle. Everyone accepts the "evidence" on his side and rules any "counter evidence" flawed and inadmissible. Nevertheless, there are qualified people who support it and nobody can seem to conclusively disprove it.

  • In the belief department, I subscribe to traditional Talmudic Jewish ideology which presents a spiritual world, an all-knowing and involved G-d, and the existence of prophecy as fundamental tenets of our belief. All this is summarized by Rambam in his 13 principles. Many of those who fight against FC or whatever do not even subscribe to these basics.

  • As an extention of the above and the primary catalyst for me to take this seriously is that I have been aware of the Gemara in Bava Basra 12b from the time I first studied Bava Basra over 30 years ago. When one has studied as much gemara as I have and have seen how Chazal's statements substantiate themselves in the world both in their Halachic and Aggadic teachings, it is difficult to dismiss out of hand phemonena that conform to their words (Maharsha notwithstanding!).

  • The Torah world that I am part of believes that G-d is constantly sending us "messages" in different ways. We say that whenever a tragedy occurs in the world at large, it is a message to us. We believe that G-d wants to communicate to us. I discussed this in a previous post. It makes a lot of sense to me that G-d wants to communicate to us this way.

  • "Non-partisanship" - I have heard criticism that this Daniel stuff is coming out from "chareidi" boys from "chareidi" families with "chareidi" FC's naturally pushing a "Chareidi" agenda. For one thing, the Goldin family is an all-American baalabatish family from Boston. I believe that they were not nearly as "chareidi" in America as they are now. But that is not what impresses me. What impresses me is the story of Galia. Galia was a completely secular girl from a completely secular background (typical Israeli single parent home). Her mother had no incentive to get involved in FC for religous purposes. I will concede that it was Rav Yehuda Srevnik who set her up with the facilitator (an American woman, she does not say if she was chareidi or even religious). But she was the one who pursued the issue. The complete story is available HERE.

  • Motive - I personally have nothing to gain from what I am doing in promoting the "word of G-d". Not financially and not for personal acclaim, nothing. I get a Yasher Koach from people who appreciate what I write and a mi sheberach from people who don't. That's it!! Some of my relatives who are afraid of my book avoid me. It's not pleasant. I am doing this because I believe in it. It is totally L'shem Shamayim. Well, so are they. Nobody has gotten rich from it. Nobody is looking for book rights or movie rights. All the Daniel material is available for free and the books are sold for cost. (Disclaimer - Galia's mother did indeed write a book, FWIW.) Yet these people who have so little to gain from this (even Galia's mother) have so much to lose if they were to be exposed as frauds which would most likely happen if they truly are. Thus, the equation does not add up in favor of chicanery.

  • The people who are involved, stand by it. Those who scoff, are removed from it. You have to assume that a good many people (who you don't know) who are respected by those who do know them as trustworthy - are lying. Not that they are decieved and misled, but that they are lying - through their teeth. You have to assume that Galia's mother is a fraud and is lying to everybody. Though I personally am as cynical and skeptical as they come (it may not look that way but try selling me something I actually have to pay for), I have more faith in humanity than that. You can add to this list those who testify about clinical death experiences and the "seance soldiers" who took the step of becoming chozrei b'teshuva - like Galia's mother did - due to their experiences and I have thus far seen no movement that uncovered any of them to be fraudulent.

So this is what I see on the "for" side of the judgement scale. From my perspective, it's pretty weighty. Now, I want to have another look at the 5 points that my anonymous friend put on the "against" side.

Point 1 - I am very confused by this. Clearly, there are different forms of autism with different symptoms. Some forms have these symptoms and others don't. what's more, somne autisics can speak and others not. This symptom is clearly only relevant to those that can speak. FC is for those who cannot. My medical knowledge is quite limited but I would surmise that verbal communication and written or typed communication are two different skills. One of my sons stutters, but there is no stuttering in anything he writes or draws. Thus I wouldn't expect this discrepancy to be a proof either for or against the veracity of FC. Why is it relevant?

Point 2 - I don't know how you define mesora. The Torah and the Talmud fully uphold the concept of communication between the realms in the form of nevuah or the "kockos hatumah" of kishuf, ov and yidoni, seances (doresh el hameisim), and ayin hara. We all know the famous gemara about the "Chasid echad" in the beginning of Brachos. We also have in our tradition the concepts of gilgulim (reincarnation) and dybbuk's allegedly observed first-hand by the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Elchanan Wasserman, Rav Eliyahu Lopian and the Ben Ish Chai.
As for this particular issue of Piguei Moach, there is the gemara in Bava Basra 12b that has been with us for 1600 years. If the Maharsha bothers anybody, we can discuss it in comments.
Perhaps you mean that this modern technique of FC has no mesorah due to its "newness", well we don't have a "mesorah" on machine matzos , either.

Point 3 - My guess is that the proponent was NOT Rabbi Srevnik (his book can be read for free - click HERE). Regardless, Galia's mother tells a very different story - (see Segment 2 from 2:30). She tells that FC is so accepted in America that it was used as incriminating evidence in several felony cases! Which of you sounds more believable?

Point 4 - Thank you for this source. It is not very relevant to the question of is FC genuine or not but you do score a full goal for debunking that this vort (or something similar) has not been previously published.

Point 5 - For what you wrote in your first paragraph about the messages coming from those disseminating it (which are primarily the fathers of Daniel and Ben), this is addressed in the segment I wrote above about lack of personal motive.
As for the second paragraph, it is precisely because they are not saying anything ultra-radical or any big chiddushim that makes me feel comfortable that there is no wild hidden agenda beyond getting us to be better Jews - a worthwhile endeavor regardless of who preaches it.
As for your last paragraph, it is obviously a presumption based on your conjecture - IF they are saying things that don't conform... (i.e. conjecture), THEN those FCs would be suppressed (i.e., presumption). And IF my zaidy had the babies THEN he would be my bubby!

After all this, I am still not betting any of my kids' chasuna money on FC but this is how the 2 sides of the scale look to me.

How do they look to you?


joshwaxman said...

bli neder, i may respond to other points, but when you write
"What impresses me is the story of Galia"
do you know that Galia purportedly was communicating while ASLEEP?!

her mother writes:
One day Galia fell asleep in the middle of a session but her hand continued to write. I asked her, “Galia, how can it be that you’re sleeping and your hand continues to write?” She wrote back, “Mum, you’re communicating with my soul, and souls never sleep.”

I communicate with Galia through her soul, not through her intellect. Her intellect is that of a five-month-old infant.

End quote.
You cannot be on the fence here saying that they are surely communicating but that you don't know if they are clairvoyant and know heavenly secrets. If you believe Galia communicated while asleep (and not the rational, SANE explanation that the facilitator was accidentally communicating and continued despite Galia falling asleep), then you must believe she is clairvoyant.

similarly, as they testify, Ben answered questions before the facilitator asked it (but while the facilitator knew it). they answer the obvious objection that it was the facilitator subconsciously communicating by having Ben say that he is telepathic. This is in the FC.

So this middle ground that you write that "In fact, FC itself is no myth. Autistics CAN communicate. It is well documented (check You Tube)." besides being ignorant (because I've seen videos; and some can be the facilitators communicating, and because there is a difference between high functioning and low-functioning autistics) is simply false. if you accept Ben and Galia (and Daniel, a low-functioning autistic like Galia), you are accepting them as clairvoyant.

it is unfortunate that you have chosen to cast it as a chareidi vs. kofer issue. Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach, who knew much better than you, and I believe was also chareidi, was asked about the FC messages and said that one must first determine whether they are able to and can send these messages, and only then should we evaluate the contents of the messages. and the doctor he assigned to investigate came back with it being junk-science.

if you look in the book from Galia, at all the haskamos, they all give two requirements which have been violated by the present-day autistics. Namely that one should rely on them for mussar but not on practical advice or about the future. Yet this is what they dispense, alongside their heavy helping of mussar. That Obama is Gog, and an evil messenger sent from heaven, and so people should (practical advice here) flee America. The Gedolim who granted haskamos wrote that one should consult with one's rav before taking action, because rabbis are our leaders, not autistics, and meanwhile these autistics degrade rabbis who disagree with them. They have greatly overstepped their original mandate, and the hamon am is following them in this; and you are promoting them and their message.

"Motive - I personally have nothing to gain from what I am doing in promoting the "word of G-d"."
As you yourself wrote, you know the Goldins personally and don't want to think them as reshaim, or as misled.

joshwaxman said...

"Her mother had no incentive to get involved in FC for religous purposes."
but her mother had incentive to think that her child loved and appreciated her. the first communication from Galia began "Ima, I love you." Regardless of the religious message, she had an emotional need, and incentive, to believe the communications to be real. Just like Arthur Goldin has this incentive.

"Any FC not conforming to the desired message would be rightfully suppressed"
"As for your last paragraph, it is obviously a presumption based on your conjecture - IF they are saying things that don't conform... (i.e. conjecture), THEN those FCs would be suppressed (i.e., presumption)."
in answer: they revamped the dani18 website taking out a false prediction that there would be no Israeli elections. when confronted, they claimed they were cleaning it up to match the content of the leaflets, and anyway, the autistic did not mean it as a real prediction.

they had one autistic counsel not to publish the FCs done by (iirc) the family and apart from the specific regular facilitator, because the contents of these messages would confuse people. (i would guess because a different facilitator would subconsciously convey thoughts which contradicted the thoughts expressed in the other published messages.) this is still presumption and conjecture, but there is quite a lot to back this presumption. and you were likely unaware of this, and other major facts.

"The people who are involved, stand by it. Those who scoff, are removed from it. You have to assume that a good many people (who you don't know) who are respected by those who do know them as trustworthy - are lying. Not that they are decieved and misled, but that they are lying - through their teeth. You have to assume that Galia's mother is a fraud and is lying to everybody."
no, you don't. you just have to accept the scientific explanation of the ideomotor effect; and that these trustworthy people are unfortunately as ignorant as you about the science of it, and believe the evidence presented to their own eyes.

there is so much more i could write, but i'll have to hold back. i wrote so much already, i don't know if you will read any of it. it really amounts to Zil Gmor, but i think you will find a way to rationalize anything that you do learn.

kol tuv,

Anonymous said...

What about the dybuk before 3 years??