The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

Nobel games and noble aspirations

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  1. Professor Robert Aumann deserves warm congratulations from the world-wide Jewish community, not least for the wonderful kiddush hashem created by the international media coverage of his smile beaming out from under his kippah.
  2. That apart, like other practical social sciences applied games theory clearly has enormous benefits for society in all kinds of ways.
  3. Also like other sciences, it is important to understand its limitations, which Professor Aumann clearly does.  In particular, asked about the application of games theory to the Israel-Palestine conflict, he is reported as having said “It’s been going on for more than 80 years and … it’s going to go on for at least another 80.  I don’t see any end to it.”
  4. Without knowing the precise context of the question to which these remarks responded, it is impossible to be sure exactly what Professor Aumann meant.  But knowing him to be a Torah Jew we can be sure what he did not mean: he may have meant that his particular science has nothing to offer for the acceleration of the resolution of conflict in Israel, but he certainly did not mean that there is therefore no hope for peace.
  5. Professor Aumann himself has witnessed miracles: a miraculous escape from the inferno and a miraculous rebuilding, in other lands in general and in Israel in particular, of so much of what was lost.  Therefore he is better-placed than many to know that the cry of the believing Jew through the ages when confronted with the limits of science and human endeavour is not the cry of despair but the cry of hope beyond reason but within faith.
  6. Standing at the brink of the sea with the Egyptian armies massing behind them, Moses turns to the Jewish people and says not “my political, diplomatic and military strategies have reached the end of their potential and we may as well give up” but rather “my political, diplomatic and military strategies have come to the limit of their potential and we can therefore, all human effort having been expended and failed, confidently expect immediate divine intervention” (see Shemos 14:13-14).
  7. We are all deeply indebted to Professor Aumann and all other scientists, social and other, for their discoveries that enable us to work faster and more effectively towards the goal of a perfect world under the Kingship of God.  But we never forget that the human effort can only succeed in accordance with the God’s blessings, and that ultimate success, personally, communally and universally, owes more to faith in God’s mercies and kindness than to our own efforts.  And so the more impossible the task that we confront seems, the more confidently we trust in God to achieve it for us once we have deserved it.
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Written by Daniel Greenberg

October 15, 2005 at 12:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

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