In this lecture on Evolution and The Age of the Universe, Gottlieb explains the discrepancy between the scientific age of the universe - 14 billion years old - and the Jewish date of 5766 (the lecture is 3 years old so add that to both dates):
"Now the short answer to the contradiction is that the universe is 5766 years old and God created it looking older than it is. So that scientists when they follow up the evidence of greater age, are following it up correctly. And they are correctly inferring the age of the universe upon that evidence based on certain assumptions that they are making... but their conclusions are wrong. Similar to a case where the Mafia plants evidence that someone committed a crime and police use the evidence according to all the correct forensic techniques to identify so-and-so as the criminal - they aren't making any mistakes in their inferences from the evidence - except they don't know the evidence is planted."
[Aside: there are other similarities between God and the Mafia - both have a Ten Commandments code of behavior!]
Is God therefore a jokester trying to trick us? Gottlieb asks rhetorically.
- No, the question is irrelevant since we cannot understand why God would do things in such a way.
- Since God told us the truth he's not fooling us. Some facts he wants us to know by observing the world, other facts he wants us to know by telling us.
- If we need to, we can easily supply a motivation for God by pointing out that the world largely presents a misleading appearance. God makes the world anew continually, as we say twice each day in davening. Clearly God makes the world in such a way that we cannot see the truth by observable evidence.
No, that's an inappropriate technique because it undermines all critical thinking. So you can't apply it arbitrarily. However, the "planted evidence" argument applies to the singular case of the Jewish date because it is a superior explanation, even superior to the scientific explanation! How? Try to follow this logic, folks:
The Jewish people have an independent source of evidence. Gottlieb doesn't discuss it in this lecture, but he references his other lectures on the historical verification of Torah (I'm sure that you've heard it all before). These proofs say that the world is 5766 years old. Claiming that a 14 billion year old age is a result of planted evidence fits the Torah explanation AND the scientific explanation (since science can't distinguish real from planted). But a purely scientific explanation cannot explain the 5766 date. That is, Torah can explain science's evidence, but science cannot explain Torah's evidence. Thus "5766 actual/14 billion planted" is a superior explanation! Q.E.D.
I had to listen to this section of the lecture a few times because I found it hard to believe that Gottlieb would resort to such convoluted logic. Of course, his biggest fallacy is in suggesting that the 5766 age is something that science needs to take seriously and somehow explain.
What I find most appalling is that Gottlieb never gives an inkling that there are other "Torah true" approaches. To my mind he is scraping the bottom of the kiruv barrel as he snares unsophisticated folks who will eventually give up their brains and adopt similar fundamentalist ideas.
By the way, the rest of the lecture is devoted to tired old arguments against evolution; someone really needs to bring this man up to date and send him a Kenneth R. Miller book.
Oh yes, you wouldn't know it from the logic that he uses in the lecture, but Rabbi Gottlieb has a Ph.D. in mathematical logic from Brandeis University.