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Reply to Barbara Pfeffer Billauer's "On Judaism and Genes"

From: Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal
Volume 9, Number 2, June 1999
pp. 167-174 | 10.1353/ken.1999.0015


The response of Barbara Pfeffer Billauer to my article "If I Am Only My Genes, What Am I? Genetic Essentialism and a Jewish Response" highlights the conflict between a sociological understanding of religion and the resistance to such analysis from within a faith tradition. Ms. Billauer makes three main points; the first strangely credits to me, and then attacks, an argument the article takes great pains to refute, but does so to emphasize the faith's prescient guidance in matters scientific. The second attempts to rebut my critical analysis of the tensions inherent in Jewish views of the body with an insistence that Judaism so perfectly balances the relation between the sacred and profane that there is not now, and never was, the slightest tension between corporeality and divinity in the Jewish corpus. The third uses my article as vehicle for her to expound on an interesting but tangential formulation of three Jewish terms. In all, the need to defend her interpretation of Judaism's solutions to the problems the article raises results in un-self-critical and ahistorical theorizing, making the utility of her arguments in a discussion of the sociology of religion unsatisfactory.

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