I learned something today which disturbs me greatly. I am learning Genesis with Dr. Levine, who is an excellent professor and very well-informed. Today she suggested that there is a prevalent theory that is understood by midieval scholars that any piece of knowledge/ information, especially scientific, which is proven to be absolutely true is clearly part of the "lost wisdom of Chazal." The idea is that Chazal at one point in time knew everything, because clearly the Torah contains everything. However, for one reason or another, some of this knowledge was lost and appears, in corrupted form, in the secular world. At this point, Judaic sources (especially midieval commentaries) feel justified in taking this knowledge and reclaiming it.
This is what Ramban does when he explains his theory of the creation of the world (Rambam clearly does this as well, when he explains it within Aristotelian terms.) I have many problems with this entire idea- the major one is that this allows for major apologetics. "Well, that's just another lost piece of Chazal's knowledge," doesn't seem to me to be a very strong argument. But much more importantly, scientific knowledge clearly changes. For example, as my teacher pointed out, when it comes to the Ma'aseh HaMerkavah, apparently Maimonides explains it in Moreh Nevuchim in terms of Aristotelian science. Malbim later says this science is defunct and reinterprets the passage in light of what he sees as currently being the truth.
If you can change the Torah to fit the current scientific "truthful" norms, what does that say about the honesty of your scholarship? Ideally, shouldn't the text suggest a certain type of reading, and that is the way things work? It bothers me that different commentaries can manipulate the text in order to force different scientific meanings upon it (depending on what is available during their time period.) If this is the case, I can inflict any meaning I desire upon the Torah text and then happily claim, "Look! It's here! Everything is contained within the Torah!"
Of course, this is what some people are still trying to do- except the new vogue is to make the text of the Torah somehow show that evolution is true. Why is this necessary? And even if someone could ostensibly prove that- why should it be any more valid than Ramban forcing his theory of the four elements onto the text, or Malbim reinterpreting Ma'asei HaMerkavah in context of the science of his time period? And why is this even necessary? How do we interpret texts- do we take a particular meaning, knowing that it is "true," and then force it onto a text, or do we read texts in order to find meaning? The first approach speaks to a kind of desperation I do not like to think about. The latter approach seems far more logical- and true- to me.