Yellow cat pwns creationist rabbi Moshe Averick

Rabbi Moshe Averick has been a royal pain in the tuchus, spreading his creationist views all over the internet, most shamefully at the Algemeiner Journal, a Jewish weekly newspaper whose chairman of the board is, of all people, the renowed Elie Wiesel. Wiesel is, of course a Nobel Laureate, a Holocaust survivor, and author of the acclaimed book Night about his life in Buchenwald. He doesn’t deserve the Averick albatross around his neck, and I wonder if he knows he harboring a creationist.

Averick’s schtick is to pretend to accept much of modern evolutionary biology, but then to claim that because scientists don’t fully understand how life began, Yahweh must have done it.  Averick has even distorted the work by scientists like Jack Szostak (another Nobelist) to further Averick’s creationist views.  I’ve written about the Duplicitous Rabbi several times (e.g., here), and if you need to see more, just enter “Averick” in the website search engine.

Averick is a lightweight with a big mouth and a strong desire to see his name in print.  But he’s so easily pwned that even a cat can do it. To that end Faye Flam, science writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, pressed her yellow cat Higgs into service again to take down the good Rabbi. (As I noted in a recent post, Higgs has had experience rebutting creationists).

At Flam’s Inquirer site Planet of the Apes, you can read how Higgs makes lunch of Averick in the post “Yellow cat offers rebuttal to creationist rabbi.”  Higgs sets Avericks straight on several issues, including what it means to offer a god-of-the-gaps argument, why Averick lied when trying to argue that Jack Szostak agreed that the origin of life from non-life (“abiogenesis”) was deeply problematic, and crushes Averick’s argument that science is a form of faith.  And, as usual, Higgs asks for a reward at the end:

I’d also like to call attention to your misleading use of the word “faith” to describe the thinking of Dr. Szostak as well as Dr. Jerry Coyne. Neither of them ever said they believed science would answer everything. We don’t know which questions will be answered by science in our lifetimes, which will be answered in the future, and which will never be answered. The physicist Richard Feynman has remarked that we don’t know if science will ever get to the bottom of things or just keep peeling back layers of an endless onion. That didn’t stop him from peeling back a quite substantial layer.

Furthermore, science works because scientists don’t apply a religious-type faith to their theories. They get in big trouble when they do. Scientists either change their minds when the evidence turns against them or they risk going down in history as defenders of a wrong or outdated idea.  Think of cold fusion.

Some people argue that scientists have faith in the process of science, but this type of faith is not a religious leap but a logical extension of our experience. The scientific method has worked in the past many times. Therefore it’s quite rational to think it will continue to work in the future.

Thank you for letting me express my opinion – Higgs. Can I have a treat?

Even a cat can look at a king, and even a yellow cat can demolish Rabbi Averick.  Go back to the Torah, my good rabbi, for that’s where your talents lie.

24 Comments

  1. Aztek
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    That kitty sure is a clever one. Isn’t it getting its treat already when it eats lightweight wannabe-intellectuals for breakfast?

    • Aidan Karley
      Posted January 8, 2012 at 4:30 am | Permalink

      Cat eats bird-brain (in the form of a feathered flying theropod dinosaur) for breakfast ; cat wants more food. The universe continues it’s normal ways unperturbed, for nothing unusual has happened.

  2. Griff
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    That rabbi really is a bit dim isn’t he? Not to mention either a liar or wilfully ignorant.

    Hopefully, now that he’s been pwned by a cat he’ll learn to keep his mouth shut.

    But I doubt it.

  3. Posted January 8, 2012 at 4:22 am | Permalink

    In 1861, evolution was a new theory – it would have been quite possible for an intelligent and reasonable person not to buy it at face value.

    In 2011, it attracts only the hard of thinking.

    • Chris Granger
      Posted January 8, 2012 at 5:01 am | Permalink

      What about 2012? ;)

  4. Paul Braterman
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    “Go back to the Torah, my good rabbi, for that’s where your talents lie.”

    Unfair to the Torah, whose editors recognised it from the outset to be a multilayered document, not the cardboard cutout of the Creationists.

  5. Paul Braterman
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    “Go back to the Torah, my good rabbi, for that’s where your talents lie.”

    Unfair to the Torah, whose editors regarded it from the outset as a multilayered document, not the cardboard cutout of the Creationists.

    • Paul Braterman
      Posted January 8, 2012 at 5:53 am | Permalink

      Oops, regarded, not recognised; I am not claiming validity for the Torah, merely that it is not as stupid as the Avericks of this world imagine.

  6. Marjorie Spencer
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Higgs is incisive, but let’s face it – even a cat can make a mistake, and here he commits the inductive fallacy. Luckily it does not invalidate the rest of the argument, but it weakens the pwn.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 8, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Only if you cook and steep it in the stupidity of philosophical induction. But Faye Flam did not mention it:

      “The scientific method has worked in the past many times. Therefore it’s quite rational to think it will continue to work in the future.”

      Science is fond of tests, because at the end of the day the thing we can do strictly is to find out what does not work. If a method has worked many times you can test it on its function, and as Faye may have done rationally surmise that it works.*

      If it bothers you that this process is not unambiguous, do not be. That is the very problem with philosophical induction in the first place.

      For example, you can assume that a human have a soul explaining his or hers behavior and feelings. Then by induction over enough humans all humans have souls. Likewise you can assume that they have a mind created by the existing neurobiological substrate, and presto! All humans have a mind.

      Both of these are inductively true, without the problems of extrapolating from a smaller set came into it. And how can they not be? Philosophy is the organized ability to tell “just so” stories that are equally true as much as you wish.

      What happens in the case of testing though is that it seems the process converges. Enough tests means enough elimination. For instance, The Laws Underlying The Physics of Everyday Life Are Completely Understood.

      If that convergence happens enough times, we can reasonably test that too some day. Today we can only rationally surmise that as it happens we make better work than the “good enough” of not having erroneous physics. We also seem to work out some cases of “the” physics.

      The reason we can see that is because science and Higgs are laid back fellows with plenty of time. Just let the busy people go about their business for some time, and Higgs can incisively make his pwns.

      ————————-
      * Besides having testing firmly rooted in statistics, a simple estimate leads me to think we can actually test science on this today if we want it formally done.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 8, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      I should add that elimination is based on auxiliary characteristics such as parsimony. But you probably already saw that.

  7. Scote
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I have to vigerously object:

    “Thank you for letting me express my opinion – Higgs. Can I have a treat”

    No cat would ever say that.

    Cats are not inferiors who must say “please” and “thank you.” One does not “let” cat a express their opinion, for which they owe thanks. Cats, of course know this. Thus, the closing salutation is highly suspect. As is the “Can I have a treat?”, which should read “Give me a treat.” (Cats do not ask permission, they give it. As in, “You may feed me now, minion.”)

    I love the photos of that most noble beast, Higgs, but I’m highly dubious of Faye Flam’s ability to interpret cat. Oh, the effrontery!

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted January 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      Methinks that Scote is right and Higg’s personality needs a reinterpretation. I think Faye was trying to say, ‘even a cat can get this’, however, we who co-inhabit with felines wouldn’t dare!

  8. DonF
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Jerry,

    You expressed surprise at the association of Elie Wiesel with Averick, but as with that other Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Theresa, Wiesel’s reputation doesn’t bear any kind of scrutiny. Here’s one of many articles debunking Wiesel and his fiction-presented-as-fact ‘Night’

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2006/04/01/truth-and-fiction-in-elie-wiesel-s-night-is-frey-or-wiesel-the-bigger-moral-poseur/

    Far better to read Primo Levi (in particular ‘If This Is A Man’) than the mystifying and dishonest Wiesel.

  9. DonF
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    And here’s Christopher Hitchens on Elie Wiesel, titled with characteristic brilliance, “Wiesel Words”

    http://www.thenation.com/article/wiesel-words

  10. Diane G.
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    (subscribing)

  11. Mike
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I am very disappointed in this website. I thought it was going to be about why evolution is true, but it seem more like why god is not real. I guess this is just as silly of a page as a creationist trying to prove God exist with science. Hasn’t it occurred to you that you have become just as silly as they are? Or maybe even worse because you think your being all scientific?

  12. Moshe Averick
    Posted January 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Jerry,

    First of all, if you think I’m a pain in the tuchus, I know I’m on the right track. Second,
    I do not PRETEND to accept evolutionary theory; for argument’s sake I am prepared to concede its truth. However, I don’t personally think it is a good enough theory to explain the “organized complexity of the living world.” (Dawkins’ term) At the same time I admit I do not have enough of an expertise in the relevant data to publicly argue my case. I hand you neo-darwinian theory on a platter. You still don’t know jack-all about the origin of life. Cheers, buddy.

    Moshe

    • Posted January 11, 2012 at 4:18 am | Permalink

      Rabbi,

      You are, through ignorance or dishonesty, confusing two very different things; the origin of life (poorly understood at present), and its subsequent diversification (understood in great detail).

      We do not know, though we can make intelligent partial guesses, how systems first arose capable of undergoing replication, variation, and selection. But we know from laboratory observation, from anatomical homologies, from the fossil record, and finally, in the last decades, from the quite independent evidence of molecular biology, an enormous amount about what has happened since.

      Despite which, you persist in interpreting as literal (p’shat rather than remez) an account that tells us that whales were created before land animals. Why?

      • Griff
        Posted January 11, 2012 at 5:08 am | Permalink

        Difficult to explain vestiges and atavisms in the Cetaceans UNLESS they had land-dwelling ancestors. Perhaps the Rabbi would care to read this section on Whales from TalkOrigins with an open mind:

        http://www.talkorigins.org/features/whales/

    • Havok
      Posted February 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Moshe: You still don’t know jack-all about the origin of life.

      And neither, it seems, do you Moshe.
      Those that do know a lot about the origin of life, such as Szostak, do not agree with your position (despite your best attempts at quote mining).

      And yet you continue your “God of the gaps” argument. Hilarious!

  13. Griff
    Posted January 11, 2012 at 3:10 am | Permalink

    Rabbi, what happens when you tally up 3.5 billion years of small changes and complex interactions between and organism and it’s environment?

    Complexity.

    What’s difficult to understand about that?

    Regarding Abiogenesis. It’s early days. But your statement is classic “god of the gaps”.

    All that can be said about an unknown is that it IS unknown. That’s it. Period. 700 years ago, the Medieval Moshe Averick would have pointed to a lightning strike and said, “There, you can’t explain that with your new-fangled science. Clear evidence of god”. Do you still think lighting is gods judgement Rabbi?

    You proclaim your ignorance of the subject AND your belief that you’re right anyway. To paraphrase “I haven’t done my research but I’m pretty sure I’m right”.

    If you haven’t done your research, then YOU HAVE NO IDEA and you are simply expressing a prejudice.

    Suggestion – go and do your research. Examine those things that you consider too complex to have arisen naturally, then see if there exists such an explanation. That would be the intellectually honest thing to do.

    If you haven’t read it, I can recommend any number of great books on the subject. On the subject of complexity and apparent design, Dawkins “Climbing Mt Improbable” or Ken Millers “Only A Theory”. I’d also recommend Dr Coynes own book, but that seems somehow inappropriate here.

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 11, 2012 at 3:26 am | Permalink

      What could be more appropriate? :D

      • Griff
        Posted January 11, 2012 at 3:37 am | Permalink

        I know, but I wouldn’t think the Rabbi would want to put money in Jerry’s pocket ;-)


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