Oy gewalt! A creationist rabbi attacks me.

The notorious and obstreperous Rabbi Moshe Averick, whose schtick is that life couldn’t have arisen by natural means, ergo God, has gone after me in a big way on the Jewish Algemeiner website, in a post with the lovely title, “Severe weather alert: Dr. Jerry Coyne—militant atheistic biologist—is blowing very hot air in Chicago.

I have to laugh because his post is largely a defense of David Berlinski, that pompous purveyor of evolution denialism.  Here’s a few lovely passages:

Anyone who has read Berlinski’s books or articles – whether you agree with him or not – knows that his writing is anything but awkward. Excuse me Jerry, but if Berlinski’s prose is awkward, then yours could only be described as quadriplegic. On the other hand, if Berlinski’s writing is the most exquisite bottle of French Bordeaux wine, yours is a watered-down quart bottle of Ripple. I’m sure an august institution like the University of Chicago has some wonderful creative writing courses…Just do it, Jerry.

And this, which makes me LOL:

Most revealing of all is Coyne’s confession that he has “trouble believing” that Berlinski is really an agnostic. I find this intriguing. Why is it difficult for Coyne to believe such a thing? As far as I’m concerned, the answer is obvious. Dr. Jerry Coyne is a fanatic. A fanatic is someone who is so emotionally and psychologically bound up with their beliefs, that they are incapable of considering another point of view. The sense of reality and emotional stability of the fanatic depend entirely on protecting their beliefs from any type of serious questioning or intellectual attack. Coyne is a fanatical atheist and a fanatical Darwinist. From Coyne’s psychological perspective, it is impossible for there to be flaws in evolutionary theory. It is impossible for any rational person to have doubts about evolutionary theory.

Obviously the good rabbi is completely ignorant of my critiques of modern evolutionary “dogma,” including my attacks on the shifting balance theory of evolution, on the idea that evolution must always proceed by the accumulation of many mutations of very small effect, and on the notion that morphological change nearly always involves changes in the regulatory regions of genes.  I may be wrong in these criticisms, but nobody can accuse me of being a blinkered defender of all things evolutionary.

I don’t need defending here, because Averick is being completely eviscerated in the comments. And the funniest thing is this:  Averick, who thinks he’s struck the Achilles heel of evolution by arguing that we know nothing about the origin of life (ergo Moses), went after Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak’s work on the origin of life by taking Szostak’s words out of context:

The argument that I put forth in my book, which Rabbi Jacobs also presented in his Huffington Post column, was that the simple reason why Origin of Life researchers are baffled in their attempts to find a naturalistic origin of life – as Noble Laureate Dr. Jack Szostak put it, “It is virtually impossible to imagine how a cell’s machines…could have formed spontaneously from non-living matter,” is because it is impossible for a cell’s machines to have formed spontaneously from non-living matter.

If you look in the comments, you’ll see one by Terri-Lynn McCormick, who happens to be Szostak’s wife.  She gives Szostak’s full quote in context, which of course says something very different from what Averick implies, and winds up concluding:

I do not know if you are lying or are incapable of understanding the article, but I suspect the former. Make no mistake, this kind of misrepresentation is a lie. When you say someone has said something that supports your argument when you know that the whole of his words undermine it, you are lying about what the person said. Civil discourse begins with honest engagement.

Averick just babbles in reply.  Like many creationists, he likes to take quotes out of contexts to make it seem as if scientists have deep doubts about evolution—doubts that we suppress to present a false front.  Averick is a liar, and makes me ashamed to be a (cultural) Jew.  He needs to remember the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

101 Comments

  1. Lesli
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    The universe must have a cause. Therefore, no bacon. http://www.jesusandmo.net/2011/10/05/must/

  2. Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    That is one funny comment thread.

  3. Adrian Tate
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    You sure do have to deal with a whole load of crap and insults from these people. I would like to thank you for the work you do and the arguments that you take on. Many of us do not have the skills or time to be able to do this and you do us a great service by taking these near-impossible arguments on. Hopefully many previously neutral readers will see that one side is attempting to describe the way things really are and another is hurling base insults to attempt to make up for undeniably weak argument.

    • Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      “I would like to thank you for the work you do and the arguments that you take on.”

      Hear, hear!, +1, and all that jazz.

      • Jonas
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        Here here.

        Btw, how pwned was avarick on that thread? Almost felt sorry for him. I’m sure that was not what he considered a “good day.”

        • Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

          It really is “hear, hear.” But I’ll allow “here, here” so as not to seem a prescriptivist.
          :)

  4. steve oberski
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I wonder what the comment in hebrew by Jake said ?

    Averick seemed to take it personally and responded with his “well jerry was vulgar first” checkmate argument.

    • Jolo
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Google translate said this:
      Long “Dear Moses, your article very bad, and the accusations and insults you directed at Jerry really ugly and lacking in manners and basic courtesy. As one that upholds the values ​​of Judaism which considered King of the Jews “and the doors always open to” Answer “, you contradict your beliefs. Say, “great” American Orthodox can be an answer in Hebrew at all these things? That I doubt it …. You can to me, what you wrote here lacks both logic and common and wisdom. Please note that I’m not necessarily just an Israeli “cultural Jew” had enough of the ultra as you and your hypocrisy.

      • Jonas
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        When I saw the Hebrew, it was like god himself was joining in the pwnfest.

    • chriskg
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Google Translate is close, but rough. It basically says, “Great “Dear Moses, your article is very bad, and the accusations and insults you directed at Jerry really ugly and lacking in manners and basic courtesy. As one that upholds the values ​​of Judaism which is perceived King of the Jews “and the doors always are open to” Answer “, you contradict your beliefs. Tell me [how], “great” American Orthodox can be an answer in Hebrew at all these things? That I doubt it …. You can in my opinion, what you wrote here lacks both logic and common and wisdom. Please note that I’m not necessarily just an Israeli [I am a] “cultural Jew” [and I've] had enough of the [????] as you and your hypocrisy.”

      • Stewart
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        I’d like to help here, as a human translator. Much of the meaning is there, though the bit about “a Hebrew answer” is a little obscure in its details. The main reason for doing it from scratch (though I retained one or two good bits of the automated version) is that one insult was neglected, what it gave as “you can to me” or “you can in my opinion.” The automated translation interpreted the word as “nochal,” which could be “we can,” but that’s not what it is. It’s “nochel,” which is a crook. That said, here it is without machine involvement:

        Dear Reb’ Moshe,

        Your article is very bad, and the accusations and insults that you aim at Jerry are really ugly and lacking in manners and basic courtesy. As one who stands for values of Judaism according to which a Jew is seen as a “king” and the doors are always open for a “return,” you are contradicting your very own beliefs. Tell me, can an American Orthodox “rabbi” be an answer in Hebrew to these matters at all? I doubt it… you are a crook in my eyes, what you have written here is lacking in both logic and common sense as well as in wisdom. For your information, I am actually not an Israeli, but a simple “cultural Jew” who is sick of the hypocrisy of religious people like you and your kind.

        • Stewart
          Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          And why am I not surprised that the main page of Averick’s website contains praise from Richard Weikart?

        • chriskg
          Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

          Stewart,

          Thank you. That sounds a lot better than the Google version.

          Chris

          • Jolo
            Posted December 15, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

            What Chriskg said

  5. Yi
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Go check out the comment section of Averick’s article; I think he’s been ripped apart.

    • Tulse
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      McCormick’s comment on his quote of Szostak’s article is indeed epic.

  6. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    No mention of Berlinski is complete without an appearance of the word supercilious.

  7. Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    FWIW, I am of the mind that we should almost always take people’s stated beliefs at face value — e.g. Berlinski claiming he is an agnostic — and this is one of many reasons why: It is very easy for your opponents to spin it as if you are being delusional or whatnot.

    Also, I think it’s just bad form. We hate it when believers say that we really know there’s a Jesus in our heart of hearts, and I think it’s only fair we refrain from doing the reverse to them. (The one exception I make is pointing out that believers seem to grieve just as hard and as painfully as atheists when faced with personal tragedy, so I question whether theists really viscerally believe in an afterlife. But of course I know they do on a conscious level!)

    • Julien Rousseau
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      I may be mistaken but I do not see it as Jerry not believing that Berlinski is an agnostic as much as jerry not understanding how Berlinski can be an agnostic given that he accept the design argument.

      To be an agnostic you need to believe that you cannot know whether god exist but the design argument is a claim that you can know that god exist due to the appearance of design in the universe so if one does buy into the design argument they should logically not be agnostic but a deist (at least) or a theist.

      Of course the reason why Berlinski can be an agnostic even while accepting the design argument is the same reason people can be believers in the face of contrary evidence: cognitive dissonance.

      • Kevin
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        Oh no. I’m quite certain Berlinski accepts the design argument while being agnostic for a more-compelling reason.

        $$$$$.

        He’s paid to do so.

  8. Greg Esres
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    “he likes to take quotes out of contexts to make it seem as if scientists have deep doubts about evolution”

    I don’t think that very many people, if any, are going to make it a significant part of their lives to propagate something they know is a lie. If they pull quotes out of context, I suspect they think the context isn’t important. I have a much greater faith in cognitive dissonance theory than I do in pure human corruption.

    • gr8hands
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      The evidence suggests that they know they are lying, and don’t care, rather than “cognitive dissonance theory” suggesting that they don’t know.

      • mediumWally
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        Couldn’t agree more!

      • Greg Esres
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        “The evidence suggests that they know they are lying”

        What evidence? None of the things cited are incompatible with cognitive dissonance.

        In fact, the only thing I can think of that disproves cognitive dissonance would be a confession.

        I think the main reason we call these people liars is that it’s satisfying to vilify those people who annoy us. In fact, this is itself is cognitive dissonance; it’s unpleasant to think that people who annoy us have virtues.

        I think the judgment that “they’re liars” is as shallow and unproductive as “God did it”. While some people may indeed be liars, I suspect the vast majority are not, and as long as we don’t realize that, we won’t be able to properly address their thought processes.

        • gr8hands
          Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

          Ben Goren’s response below gives ample evidence. Please read it.

          • Hempenstein
            Posted December 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

            And, besides Ben’s excellent points, these types have been doing this sort of thing for decades, going back at least as far as Garner Ted Armstrong (late ’60s). GTA produced reams of “tracts” filled with quotes, all of which had ellipses in the middle, and even gave the source, doubtless assuming it gave a patina of authenticity and truth. And, if it wasn’t obvious to you, the tracts were published as periodicals under the banner, The Plain Truth. As exercises in my college Evolution course (taught by a professor who had been raised by fundies and was getting his revenge) it was like shooting fish in a barrel to find the exact full quote which of course said the exact opposite. There were enough different TPT’s and quotes for the whole class.

            Which brings me to something I’ve wondered of late. This has been going on for at least ~45yrs. I just learned that the first TPT came out in 1934. Does quote-mining go back that far? If the Armstrongs didn’t start it, who was the first bible-thumper to quote-mine? I have no idea, but given the lengths the OED goes to find first use of a word, someone ought to at least have a candidate for first quote-miner-for-God. A good place to start might be material surrounding the Scopes Trial.

            (And if you’re still not convinced these guys are anything but contemptible liars, go find a copy of “Marjoe”.)

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:19 am | Permalink

              I’d suspect quote-mining goes back as far as quotes themselves. And that quote-mining for Jesus goes back much much further than the Scopes trial…

              Marjoe was a great whistle-blower, wasn’t he? I suspect few now have heard of him…

        • gr8hands
          Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

          You seem confused about what “cognitive dissonance” means. Feeling satisfied vilifying those people who annoy us is not an example of it. We don’t have any difficulty believing that these liars have virtues, or that people we admire have vices.

          Yes, you’re confused.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

          On a related tack to how we know they are liars, what makes us believe we could “address” creationists thought processes in some meaningful manner?

          Understanding is always good. But it may be that a general discussion with creationists are counterproductive, ID was once elevated to a public standing despite or thanks to such discussions. Specific discussions helps fundamentalists and bystanders both, see Dawkins’ and Coyne’s set of comments with personal anecdotes on that.

          Another feasible strategy could be to make the espousal of magical woo somewhat social dubious. (Like atheism is in some quarters.) The majority of moderates would tend to shy away, and the fundamentalists would be isolated.

          Maybe the latter won’t work, but I am sure there are other strategies. Strategies that doesn’t necessarily involve trying to somehow understand the compromised thought processes of cognitive dissonance and incompetents.

    • Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      The problem is that the quotes they mine almost always take the form of, “While it might seem at first blush that [begin mined portion] it is impossible for this to have occurred naturally, [end mined portion] closer inspection quickly reveals the real-world natural mechanism at work.” And what follows is the detailed explanation.

      So, yeah. They’re liars. They know full well that they’re deliberately twisting the meaning of the quotes they mine to mean the exact opposite of their intended meaning.

      To be sure, there’s plenty of cognitive dissonance going on as well, and perhaps said cognitive dissonance is convincing them that, somehow, their lies for a better cause or some such.

      But they’re still lying liars telling lies.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • gr8hands
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        Exactly.

        +1

      • PB
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        Maybe they just computer-scanned whole documents looking for certain sentences or word combinations, and when they find what they’re looking for, – being non-academics (or charlatans) – they just take it as is, copy-paste. Never actually bothered to see contexts or even paragraphs.

        In certain circles, doing these steps on a real computer (not just thought-experiments and paraphrasing) is considered “hard work” “diligence”.

        Certain circles ..

        • Posted December 16, 2011 at 7:05 am | Permalink

          And maybe they’re just liars with a millennia-long pattern and practice of lying.

          …you do know, don’t you, that Eusebius espoused the Platonic principle of telling lesser lies for the greater good? Devoted an entire chapter of one of his books to it. I’d have pull it up, but the modern equivalent of the example he gave would be encouraging children to believe in Santa because the parallels with Jesus will pave the way for their acceptance of Christ when they’re old enough.

          Eusebius is also the one who “discovered” the Testamonium Flavanium, the Christian declaration of faith in Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews.

          Sure, the Rabbi is Jewish, but his fundamentalism is cut from the same cloth — the lie job is just a different color pattern, is all.

          Cheers,

          b&

    • Microraptor
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Given that popular quote mines include pulling a sentence out of a paragraph that gives a detailed explanation of something and trying to pose that single sentence, sometimes even editing out parts of it, in order to make the point, I can’t see how it could be anything but deliberate lying.

      Especially when they use things like Darwin’s statement of how hard it is to think that the eye could have evolved on its own as “proof” of the preposterous nature of evolution because scientists can’t explain how eyes evolved when Darwin had only used that as a lead in to giving an explanation for how the eye could have evolved.

    • Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I have a slightly different explanation to suggest.

      They are not lying but bullshitting — they simply don’t care about the intention of the author. If they can find a quote they can use to support their argument, they’ll use it. These are people that don’t value the truth at all.

      I imagine in former days they got away with it. After all, the average reader is unlikely to be familiar with Szostak’s work or views. What the Rabbi did not expect was that Szostak’s wife would show up. How cool is the Internet!?

      • gr8hands
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        That might be correct if they only took complete sentences intact. However, as has been pointed out, they most often only take fragments of sentences, often changing/adding/subtracting words to make their “quotes.”

        • Posted December 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

          Ok. Fair point. How about the explanation of — the originators of the out-of-context quotes are lying and the rest are bullshitting?

          Take the classic example that Microraptor gives of “Darwin’s statement of how hard it is to think that the eye could have evolved on its own as “proof” of the preposterous nature of evolution because scientists can’t explain how eyes evolved when Darwin had only used that as a lead in to giving an explanation for how the eye could have evolved.” The apologist who originally used this argument probably was lying. Then apologists that come after no longer look at the Darwin’s text at all (they simply don’t care about accuracy) but simply use the argument of the original apologist along with the appropriate (inappropriate!) quote.

          • Posted December 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

            The problem with your theory is that, every time a creationist trots out these quote mines, they get publicly and loudly called on their lies — yet that doesn’t stop them from continuing their lies.

            You can see it in action in the comments on the article Jerry originally linked to.

            No, they’re lying, they know they’re lying, they know they’ve been publicly caught lying, and yet they continue to lie. There neither can nor should be an excuse for such behavior.

            Cheers,

            b&

          • gr8hands
            Posted December 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

            In your example, they might be able to get away with that if they say that “Mr. X quotes Darwin as saying Y” — but leaving out that the Darwin quote is actually from someone else’s excerpt would be an example of quote mining, without regard to whether it was an accurate quote or not.

            But I see your point.

        • DiscoveredJoys
          Posted December 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

          I’ll agree that it isn’t cognitive dissonance as such, I’ll also agree that their behaviour looks like the behaviour of someone lying. What I suspect is happening is ‘emotionally driven blindness’.

          Mr Averick reads something about evolution. Because he does not accept it all the words lack impact and fail to register meaning – apart from those phrases that confirm his worldview. These few words have vibrance and meaning and value.

          As seen by Mr Averick:
          “To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real”

          • Posted December 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

            Except that, even if that’s how he originally read it, he’s had multiple people repeatedly read the next sentence to him.

            That’s dishonesty, not deafness.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • DiscoveredJoys
              Posted December 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

              You’re right, of course. Any rational person would take the correction on board. But my point is that Mr Averick’s emotions dismiss the correction as ‘meaningless noise’ and so the corrections cannot get into the rational part of his brain.

              His emotions predispose him to (metaphorically) stick his fingers in his ears and chant ‘Neena! Neena! I can’t hear you!’

              I suspect that Mr Averick does not think that he is ‘lying for God’ but ‘cheerleading for God’.

              • Posted December 15, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

                Even if his lies are the result of a pathology, it is still important to call him out on his lies. Excusing him his lies because he’s a pathological liar does nobody any good.

                Besides, calling him on his lies might at least convince him to shut up about his lies lest he keep getting branded a liar, even if he feels he’s being branded unjustly. And those unfamiliar with the subject certainly deserve to know that they’re being lied to lest they themselves be misled by the liar into believing lies.

                Cheers,

                b&

            • chriskg
              Posted December 16, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

              Ben,

              He’s doing it again on a post I made this morning. You may get a kick out of it.

              Chris

              • Posted December 16, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

                Indeed, he is. And, in honor of Hitchens, I have attempted to administer a Hitchslap or two of my own in response.

                Cheers,

                b&

  9. Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Love the pic. Bring it!

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:23 am | Permalink

      From lolcats to loljerrehz?

  10. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Moshe Averick: I am not qualified to pass judgement in an argument about Evolutionary biology. I certainly have my own opinions on the matter, but I am not qualified to write about it in a public forum. Origin of Life is a completely separate scientific discipline, and in this are I am totally confident in stating my opinion.

    He demonstrates no more expertise in the latter than the former. Perhaps someone over there will ask his opinion of Powner, M. W., Gerland, B. & Sutherland, J. D. Nature 459, 239-242 2009.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      I asked. I’ll have to keep checking for a response.

  11. Jerry Sallo
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    I am a U of Chicago PhD (chemistry) from 1955! You are reminding me that U of C is still a great university. Thanks

  12. Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Someone needs to explain this “cultural Jew” thing to me better. Why isn’t it enough in a developed nation of the 21st Century to be simply a human citizen of planet Earth and if you need more than that, something “cultural”, how about a child of the Enlightenment, a humanist, a freethinker, or scientific naturalist? Why do so many people I know who are as distant from Old World Judaism as I am from my (goyem) European ancestry hang onto it as part of their identity long after they’ve given up the Jewish religion? The advantage to being a cultural child of the Enlightenment is that it’s open to all…no particular ancestry necessary. Isn’t circumscribing ourselves by tribe in this way directly responsible for so much bloodshed and misery?

    • Alex
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      I would say, firstly because my brand of goym killed them systematically really not too long ago, and that creates a common history for a group of people, a unifying element, secondly because there are traditions and associated with the label. Think of it like the things that members of a nation share, only less associated with a particular region.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      I get the part about wanting to honor and celebrate ancestral folkways (so long as they don’t hurt anybody). I may reject Grandma’s God, but that’s no reason to throw away her recipe book.

      What I don’t get is why anyone should feel ashamed just because someone who grew up in the same ethnic tradition turns out to be a liar. There are liars of every ethnicity. I see no shame in acknowledging that fact, nor any reason to expect that any particular ethnic group should be exempt.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:31 am | Permalink

        Are you by chance a white male?

        While I know full-well how ridiculous it is, I have often worried lest a certain action of mine reflect badly on women. Once persecuted, twice shy. And listening to the latest babbling bimbo? Gah!!

        • Filippo
          Posted December 16, 2011 at 4:17 am | Permalink

          “Are you by chance a white male? . . . I have often worried lest a certain action of mine reflect badly on women. Once persecuted, twice shy . . . .”

          Just curious, what is the “white man’s burden” in this particular context?

          • Diane G.
            Posted December 17, 2011 at 12:01 am | Permalink

            No “burden.” More like the lack of a burden; the lack of worrying if an action of theirs would reflect (one way or another) on any defined group they just happen to be a part of. (Not trying to go all gender, here; just ruminating on the similarities of all groups not generally thought to be ‘baseline.’)

    • Mary
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Yes!

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:28 am | Permalink

      Why do so many people I know who are as distant from Old World Judaism as I am from my (goyem) European ancestry hang onto it as part of their identity long after they’ve given up the Jewish religion?

      In addition to what Alex said, I would also suggest as part of the reason that no matter how areligious one may be there is a very large segment of society that will continue to see all people of certain heritages as Jews, whether they practice or not. These sorts of attitudes promote a certain amount of solidarity . . .

  13. Kels
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Averick complaining about hot air is the funniest thing I’ve read all week. This is a guy who considers yelling louder and appeals to emotion to be an effective debate tactic.

    Guy’s a joke.

    • Filippo
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Add Hitchens’s debate opponents, Schmuley (sp.?) and D’Souza to that list, whose apparent motto is, When In Doubt, Shout!”

  14. Nathan
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    That first paragraph is hilarious

  15. Alex
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    what a schlep!

  16. S A GOULD
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Went to their site. They have a very nice photo of you. (Actually better than your wiki one, but then, a pix with a cat is ALWAYS preferable…)

  17. mordacious1
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I’ve been a fanatical gravitationist since the day I fell out of a tree as a child and broke my leg.

  18. Microraptor
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Just checked out the commentary on the Rabbi’s article.

    Most of the time I see something getting torn to shreds like that it’s narrated by David Attenborough.

    • Jonas
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      So funny.

  19. Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    It’s not the first time that window licker has been caught misquoting Szostak

    http://richarddawkins.net/discussions/590746-jewish-fundamentalist-attempt-at-refuting-dawkins/comments?page=4#comment_592632

  20. BradW
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Program: (of the Discovery Institute)

    Discovery Institute is an inter-disciplinary community of scholars and policy advocates dedicated to the reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued. Discovery Institute has special concern for the role that science and technology play in our culture and how they can advance free markets, illuminate public policy and support the theistic foundations of the West.

    http://www.discovery.org/about.php

    (Interesting that one cannot cut and paste from the referenced site)

    Rabbi, please explain to all of us how an individual who subscribes to the above can, in seriousness, be said to be a “true freethinker”.

  21. Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Suppose it’s predictable but still amazing how there is zero discussion of facts, biology or even reasonable ideas or problem-solving and so much time spent on personal attacks and insults.

    Suppose our brains are designed to both generate and respond to this silliness.

  22. vel
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    hmm, ignoring a commandment and repeating the sin intentionally, now what do these people actually think that their god is, something that they can lie to repeatedly and then run to for “forgiveness”? like oh, a vending machine?

  23. chriskg
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    The Rabbi just updated his response with even more quotes mined from the abyss.

  24. Flounder99
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Terri-Lynn McCormick = Marshall McLuhan

    • litchik
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      huh? Sorry, all I know of McLuhan is “the medium is the message.”

      • Screechy Monkey
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        It’s a reference to a scene in a Woody Allen movie. Allen’s character overhears some blowhard misusing McLuhan’s work to support some argument, so he says, “well, I’ve got him right here, let’s ask him,” and pulls out McLuhan from behind some scenery to say “no, you completely misunderstand my theories.” Allen then looks into the camera, breaking the fourth wall, and tells the audience how nice it would be if life really worked that way.

        (The above is just from memory; I’m sure I got some details wrong, as I don’t even remember which movie it’s from.)

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:35 am | Permalink

          And it’s a favorite trope of JAC’s! An effective search here should come up with more than a couple of threads he’s used it on.

          Ooh, brownie points for you! :D

      • yesmyliege
        Posted December 15, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        Think Annie Hall. :)

        • Screechy Monkey
          Posted December 15, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

          That’s it!

          Here’s the clip (the McLuhan stuff comes in around the final minute):

  25. Posted December 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    ( subscribing )

  26. Posted December 15, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I commented more than once but here is a sample:

    Traditionally, Moshe, people cite the source of their quotes such that readers can read the entire thing in context and to spot B.S. in the form of slicing their words into pieces. Why are you not providing sources?

    The replications of which you speak are based on conditions in the early universe of which evidence was found and the replications are absolutely the best explaination we have for how early life started. There is as of now ZERO evidence for what you’re calling a “guided process” and I’m starting to think that commenters here should be getting a stipend for all the biology lessons they’ve offered you for nothing.

  27. Posted December 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    This is all very entertaining. I am continually astonished at the stupidity of educated religious people. I can well understand why religious radicals say such asinine things. They just do not understand evolution. There is no excuse for their ignorance because of all the good information available. They read only that which agrees with their preconceived ideas and readily admit that if science disagrees with the bible they choose the bible. You would think that they would be embarrassed about what they write.

  28. Posted December 15, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Just done commenting now. Oy, that was fun. Smackdown!

  29. Filippo
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Do I correctly recall that adherents of the Rabbi’s particular religious persuasion believe that a woman is “unclean” for a week if she gives birth to a boy, but unclean for two weeks if she gives birth to a girl?

  30. dunstar
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Lol. Berlinski is just top shelf material. Perhaps one needs a certain level of sophistication to appreciate his writings. He’s an acquired taste.

    I’ll put on a smoking jacket, a beret, light a pipe, pour myself a glass of wine and have a go at Berlinski’s writing. Perhaps one needs to be in the proper atmosphere and frame of mind to understand his genius.

    • Posted December 17, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      Good one, Dunstar. I think you have perfectly captured Berlinski’s own fantasy image of his ideal reader. Berlinski is undoubtedly his own biggest fan. All one really needs to appreciate Berlinski’s writing is a taste for prolix pomposity.

  31. Ken Pidcock
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who is capable of characterizing what we are here privileged to witness as sheer crudeness, abrasiveness, and obnoxiousness is capable of believing any damned thing they want to make up.

  32. Marta
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Oy! Such a spanking the Rabbi is getting at his blog.

  33. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    Berlinski and Averick share the property of being pretentious liars for their zombie Jesus.

    I once had the opportunity to discuss my analysis of one of Berlinski’s “[insert difficulty here] therefore gods” with him. That time the inserted difficulty was the generic property of the inverse problem of being hard.

    The inverse problem is to find out an unconstrained (all) or constrained (some) set of pathways that lead up to a system state. A simple example is a car exiting a cross road. From which direction did it come?

    Berlinski has the temerity to argue that “because 1+3 = 2+2 = 3+1 = 4, therefore math is incomprehensible, therefore gods”. It wasn’t too difficult to get him to back of the incomprehensible part, but of course “[...] therefore gods” always remains.

    the simple reason why Origin of Life researchers are baffled in their attempts to find a naturalistic origin of life

    As a student of astrobiology I don’t have the precision and foundation that Szostak’s wife has. But let me try to give a perspective.

    Averick is dated.

    When I started to study the area, reaching the research front in the papers, the general claim sense there was that there were enough known pathways. (This is of course not the same as getting the general feel as a participating researcher, mind.) It was expected that the area would enter an era of consolidation as people tried to pare away invalid pathways.

    Recently I have found seeming examples of such testability. The first such example was Wäschterhäuser’s surface metabolism of ’88. It was deliberately constructed to be testable. Indeed there is a result from ’08 that shows “the need for catalytic
    capacities well in excess of those in present-day enzymes.” ["A Quantitative Evaluation of the Iron-Sulfur World and Its Relevance to Life’s Origins", DAVID S. ROSS, Astrobiology, 2008.]

    And, I argue, as of 2010 chemical evolution of metabolic networks combines with biological evolution of gene families to form a seamless character phylogeny over selection of enthalpic enzymes.

    It turns out that metabolic networks form spontaneously as a planet cools down, they self select a class of catalysts and coenzymes that enzymes belongs to, and they are fast enough to predict OOL within the observed process time. ["Impact of temperature on the time required for the establishment of primordial biochemistry, and for the evolution of enzymes", Stockbridge et al, PNAS, 2010; "The origin of modern metabolic networks inferred from phylogenomic analysis of protein architecture", Caetano-Anollés et al. PNAS, 2007; "Rapid evolutionary innovation during an Archaean genetic expansion", David et al, Nature, 2010.] Of course, phylogenies are, in principle at least, testable.

    Consonant with that Morowitz et al are now studying chemical evolution on networks incorporating coenzymes.

    I don’t know how the discussion among the more biological and chemical OOL researchers stacks against astrobiologists. Certainly there are no signs of a general consensus that we have entered an astrobiology era of OOL testability.

    However, on these grounds you can certainly not argue that OOL researchers are baffled. What you can start to argue is that OOL has so very recently turned a corner and is now mainstream testable research.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:51 am | Permalink

      Oy vey. “crossroad”, not a cross road.

  34. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    I should add on OOL that the speed with which life originated on Earth tells of an ubiquitous and easy process.

    The only way to wiggle out of that is to claim that the process is not generic, so the absence of complex life on Mars combines to give you leeway for rare processes. However that is not consistent with what the observed speed tells us, nor especially attractive considering the chemical evolution results I gave in my earlier comment.

    And mind that the recent Kepler conference upped its exoplanet candidates with a factor of two. It also harmonized the HARPS and Kepler observations on η, the ratio exoplanets/stars, to somewhere between 16 – 40 %. We expect a lot of OOL events.

    The early millennium gives no joy to creationists. Besides rejecting the idea of a biological creator with testable science, the idea of a physical creator seems to go the same way. Even the recent LHC result on Higgs may, optimistically, point in the same direction!

    The background is that acceptance of the inflationary standard cosmology meant that inflation is the originating process of our observable universe.

    That means the hypothesis of a preceding isolated singularity is not a given cosmological solution. Similarly to Wäschterhäuser’s theories, the testable Turok-Hawking tunneling pathway out of bubbles of “nothing”, consistent physics absent spacetime, was tabled decades ago in the 70’s. And it is my understanding that it was given something of a hit a few weeks ago, when it was shown that “bubbles of something” can tunnel to “bubbles of nothing” but “bubbles of nothing” can’t tunnel to “bubbles of something”.

    Hence an past eternal inflation multiverse seems to me a remaining out. It predicts nicely the unnatural finetuned value of the vacuum. But now the tentative find of 125 GeV standard Higgs (signals in many channels, signal in several experiments, signal strength as expected from standard Higgs in all of these) adds severe unnatural finetuning to the Standard Model of particles.

    A 125 GeV standard Higgs gives a marginally stable vacuum. The metastable vacuum will have a lifetime several times longer than the observed universe.

    This finetuning of the vacuum lifetime seems, optimistically and assuming the simplest prediction of a standard Higgs will stand up to future scrutiny, ripe to be answered by the same observer selection principle that predicts its energy. (“Anthropic principle” predicting the cosmological constant, by Weinberg.)

    Which means the answer to where does it all end will not be by having matter decay (GUTs; invalidated by observation), not by having spacetime decay (Big Rip; invalidated by standard cosmology), but possibly by having the vacuum decay.

    Turns out the answer to the religious “something from nothing” is perhaps “nothing from something”. There is again wiggle room by claiming that environmental selection on observers is not generic for the vacuum. But it is not persuasive at the moment, it is certainly a simpler and more parsimonious alternative than unique TOEs.

    If so, creationism has nothing left but neuroscience (‘souls’), as has long been predicted.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:03 am | Permalink

      Scratch “a lifetime several times longer than the observed universe”, I have to read and if possible somewhat understand that review and update paper first.

      Maybe “a lifetime much longer than the age of the Universe” is in comparison somewhat “longer than the observed universe”, in which case the finetuning becomes, um, severely severe.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:11 am | Permalink

      Also pertinent on creationism:

      The next test for inflation should be the Planck data release 2012 (IIRC), which is assumed will test the hypothesis of inflation as is instead of being a part of standard cosmology.

      Hopefully also some more inflation models can be invalidated by constraint than the parameter space WMAP could cut out. (Mostly the anyway unrealistic models.)

      In a very real sense we are already studying “the origin of the universe”!

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:49 am | Permalink

      You & JAC make a great tag team! You get us to the existence of life & he takes it from there.

  35. Mark S
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    I have to highlight this particular quote from him:

    “A fanatic is someone who is so emotionally and psychologically bound up with their beliefs, that they are incapable of considering another point of view. The sense of reality and emotional stability of the fanatic depend entirely on protecting their beliefs from any type of serious questioning or intellectual attack”.

    Without even intending it, he’s perfectly described creationists, and a good deal of accommodationists without even realising it.

    I’m afraid I have no time for people with obvious intelligence who see no need to use it.

    • Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Really – they should rename themselves The Hypocrite Society.

  36. Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    I have long puzzled over this lying for god stuff. It strikes one as strange, to say the least, that someone who professes to believe in a god, who explicitly condemns lying, should lie in a supposed attempt to help that god out.

    The result of my thinking about this contradiction is that I think they do not believe in their god. I think they believe in their scripture, their mythology, their stories. This would of course be an idolatry and the creation of a graven image and the holding of a god before their god. All of which contravenes those early commandments that their jealous and insecure god was so obviously keen on.

    If they really believed in their god, could they so gratuitously and so frequently and so determinedly break its commandments?

    • Posted December 16, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      For Christians, it goes back to Eusebius, who got the idea from Plato.

      Get a child to believe in Santa as a stepping-stone to Jesus. The Santa bit is a lie, but it prepares the child for the belief in the real truth of Jesus. But Jesus-as-a-human is just a lie to prepare one for Jesus-as-miracle-worker. Except that that’s just a lie to prepare you for Jesus-as-demigod. And that’s just a lie to prepare you for Jesus-as-salvation, which is just a lie to prepare you for the Zeroeth Commandment: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

      …which, of course, is just another lie to prepare you for, “Give me 10% — no, wait, 15% of all your money!”

      Cheers,

      b&

  37. Mary
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Religion is about politics, not about beliefs

  38. Harry
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Not even the straight jacket seems to stop that deluded fool from typing breathtaking inanities.

    File under “Kooks”


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