Moshe Averick: another creationist rabbi

Perhaps I was wrong to assume that rabbis have higher respect for science, and less tolerance for theological bullshit, than do Christian preachers or Muslim imams.  Yesterday we saw the sorry spectacle of two smart rabbis, David Wolpe and Bradley Shavit Artson, tie themselves into intellectual knots over the afterlife, trying desperately to argue that it both does and does not exist, and that religion both is and is not made by man.

The day before that we witnessed the even sorrier spectacle of Rabbi Adam Jacobs arguing, on PuffHo, that because scientists don’t have a full understanding of how life originated on Earth 3.6+ billion years ago, God must have done it.  This is the god of the gaps argument, Jewish style, but I saw it as an embarrassing deviation from a Jewish tradition of thoughtful argument. I also caught Rabbi Jacobs pulling the old creationist trick of taking a quote out of context to distort its original meaning: he truncated a quote by Francis Crick, making it seem that Crick accepted life’s origin as a “miracle.”  The full quote showed that Crick believed no such thing.

Now another rabbi has weighed in in the “comments” section of my piece about Rabbi Jacobs’s missteps.  This time it’s Rabbi Moshe Averick, also known on his website as “Rabbi Maverick“, who posted a defense of Jacobs.  The rebbe is Orthodox, and had an interesting career: he was a floor trader at the Mercantile Exchange here in Chicago, wrote an album of rock music and, two months ago, wrote an anti-atheist book called Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist (see his blurbs for the book here).  Now he apparently lives in Chicago.

I’ve put Rabbi Averick’s argument against evolution, and defense of Rabbi Jacobs, in its proper place on the Jacobs thread, but also want highlight it here, above the fold, for readers’ attention. Averick posted it under his real name, so I’m not breaking confidence.

Frankly, I’m weary of arguments like this one, and deeply saddened that they come from Jews, so I’ll throw his comment open for readers to dissect.  Rabbi Averick apparently reads this site, and I’ll alert him to this thread via email, so address your remarks to him. And PLEASE, no invective, name-calling, etc.  You can certainly argue strongly against his views, but if we want him to reply, it would behoove us to be polite.

Have at it:

I don’t know who wrote the “response” to Rabbi Jacob’s article above, but if that is the best he can do then I am truly ashamed of “cultural Jews.”
I’ll limit myself to one point that the writer makes. Rabbi Jacobs did not take Francis Crick’s statement out of context. Crick was being totally candid when he said that it looks like life is a miracle. His caveat afterward is only a reflection on his own illogical and unreasonable committment to atheism. Just because Crick did not have the intellectual integrity to follow his very true assessment of the evidence to its logical conclusion is his problem, not mine.

If someone was thrown out of a Las Vegas Casino for winning 100 hands of black jack in a row and then pleaded, “I know it seems miraculous that I won so many times by luck, but it’s not IMPOSSIBLE”  we would laugh as such a ridiculous argument. This is exactly what Crick does. He admits that a naturalistic emergence of life is “miraculous”, but then quickly adds, “but it’s not impossible.”

The writer admits that we do not know how life started on Earth but he is confident that in 50 years or so Science will figure it all out. Whoever you are: You are entitled to your faith in science, it is protected by the Constitution. The notion that something that contains the amount of digitally encoded specified information and is as functionally complex as a bacterium could emerge through an undirected process without intelligent intervention is such an absurd notion that it can be rejected out of hand. If you want me to believe such a ridiculous idea then prove it. And don’t be a crybaby and ask for special consideration because we are unable to recover the evidence because of time factors. That is your problem, not mine.  The extraordinarily heavy burden of proof is on you.

My only comment is this:  I remain a cultural Jew, but now my pastrami sandwich (see post above) is salted with my tears.

322 Comments

  1. Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    “I know it seems miraculous that I won so many times by luck, but it’s not IMPOSSIBLE”

    I would laugh at that, joyfuly, cause the dude didn’t imagined some invisible supernatural causal agent but kept it to the evidence in hand: the possibility to win that 100 hands.

    This is exactly where mythologies (aka religions) fail.

    • Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      And winning 100 hands of black jack is very different from winning 100 cases of Anencephaly.

      • Kevin Alexander
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

        Or colocephaly.

    • Tacroy
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      If, in blackjack, you were allowed to both choose to discard a card and keep your old hand between rounds, then winning a hundred hands in a row would not be a rarity at all.

      Oddly enough, those are the changes you would need to make to turn blackjack into something more equivalent to an evolutionary process.

      • Livingstone Morford
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        “Oddly enough, those are the changes you would need to make to turn blackjack into something more equivalent to an evolutionary process.”

        What if a given function requires several mutations which are, independently and by themselves, non-beneficial? In such a case, natural selection is out of the equation.

        • GroovyJ
          Posted March 10, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

          Non-beneficial mutations don’t reduce your chance of survival, so they’ll spread through the species at random – they may get wiped out, they may become ubiquitous, they will most likely do neither. They will be spread randomly throughout the population.

          But, if the combination of two non-beneficial mutations produces benefits, then as soon as those mutations come together by chance, the odds of their being spread further increases, because now there are more adaptive individuals out there spreading them.

          How quickly and widely they spread depends on any number of things – how beneficial the combination is, how monogamous the species is, how harsh the environment is, and of course pure luck – all the beneficial mutations in the world do you little good if your entire family is burried in a mudslide while you’re a baby.

          In addition to this, there is the fact that migration, changing environments, and the adaptations of other species that share your niche in the ecosystem can all change what traits are most adaptive. This means that a trait that appears to be non-beneficial, or even deleterious, can in fact have been of great value at some time in the past.

          I hope that answers your objection to your satisfaction, and wonder if you could explain to me why your intelligent designer saw fit to bless you with an appendix?

          My guess is it’s because he’s mysterious.

      • Patrick Julius
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

        Exactly!

        Indeed, a genetic algorithm to generate winning blackjack hands is trivial: have it pick higher and higher hands until it gets to 21, and then keep that hand.

    • Posted March 10, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      I’v noticed that a number of people are still upset about the quote from Crick’s book, “Life Itself” where he says something to the effect that life seems to be a miracle. I am quite aware that Crick did not believe in God and that he did not think it was an actual miracle. Don’t be silly. Francis Crick was simply telling us in so many words that he could not conceive of how life could possibly have had a naturalisitic origin. (His bewilderment of course is carried on by scientists today. None of them have a clue how life began.) He felt an appropriate way to express that feeling was to call it a “miracle.” He, of course is not the only atheistic scientist who uses the word “miracle” when describing the Origin of life. Dr. Paul Davies called his book about Origin of Life, “The Fifth Miracle”. Dr. Coyne and others felt I was being disingenous in my explanation of this quote. Dr. Paul Davies seems to have understood Crick exactly the way I did; he also agrees that nothing has changed since Crick wrote his book in the eary 80’s. Here is a verbatim quote from Davies from his address at the recent Origins Conference at ASU.(Other members of the panel included Richard Dawkins, Sydney Altman, J. Craig Venter, Lee Hartwell, John McKay):

      “When I was a student in London in the Swinging sixties…the prevailing view at the time was summed up by Francis Crick who said that life seems almost a miracle, so many are the conditions necessary for it to get going. What he meant by this was that it’s entirely possible that life on earth was a bizarre freak event, an aberration unique in the entire universe. That really was the feeling in those days. Today you scarcely open a newspaper without reading that scientists think that the universe is teeming with life. What, you may wonder has changed, do we now know how life began so that we can confidently say, yes, it’s everywhere? Well, we don’t know how life began. This meeting that’s been going on for the last couple of days is exploring one particular point of view…We know the mechanism whereby life evolved, we don’t know the mechanism that turned non-life into life. It doesn’t mean that it was a miracle, but it means that we have many theories, many conjectures but we don’t know what happened…What we’d really like to know, was it very likely or was it very unlikely”

      You atheists should at least have the courage to admit that all Origin of Life research is speculative. Three more points:
      1. Please stop posting replies that use DArwinian Evolution as evidence against my postition. Darwinian Evolution has nothing at all to do with Origin of Life.
      2. I see the same replies from atheists and skeptics over and over. ARg. from Ignorance, ARg. from Incredulity, God of the Gaps,
      Quote Mining, godidit. None of these have any validity. I do not mean to be insulting in any way, but most of you just do not get the argument that I am putting forth. I’m not saying you would immediately believe in God if you understood the argument, but your responses would be radically different. I am therefore preparing a statement that will deal with each of the above mentioned objections.

      3. For further reading you should look at the following website with the following headline: RABBI MOSHE AVERICK SHREDS CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS AND THE NEW ATHEISTS
      http://manawatu.christian-apologetics.org/rabbi-moshe-averick-shreds-christopher-hitchens-and-the-new-atheists/

      • Tyro
        Posted March 11, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

        I see the same replies from atheists and skeptics over and over. ARg. from Ignorance, ARg. from Incredulity, God of the Gaps,
        Quote Mining, godidit. None of these have any validity. I do not mean to be insulting in any way, but most of you just do not get the argument that I am putting forth

        I re-read your arguments and I confess I fail to see where you’ve put forth any positive argument beyond saying that we don’t understand how X happened, and that based on our current (limited) understanding it appears very improbable. Can you see how this is interpreted as an argument from ignorance and a god of the gaps? If they are invalid, I really don’t understand what the purpose of continually raising these points is meant to be as I don’t see anything else which could be any positive evidence for a god, ID, or anything else you might be arguing for.

        And if these fallacies are incidental to your argument, then what is your argument? Please sketch it out in bullet points or at a high-level and tell us why you think the accusations of fallacies are unjust.

        • Posted March 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

          Specified information (an inscription in stone) or functional complexity (bicycle, calculator) are the result of intelligent intervention and purpose. This is based on what we DO know about the sources of these phenonmena, not what we DON’T know. If you wish to assert that highly specified information could be he result of an undirected process, the burden of proof is on you, not me.

          • Tyro
            Posted March 14, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

            Three points you seem to dance around:

            1. We know how stone carvings, calculators and bicycles are created and we don’t use “specified information” to tell us this. When we’re debating the origin of something, you can’t argue analogously from five examples where we know the origins for certain.

            2. You assert without evidence that DNA has all these properties of specified information or complexity or whatever yet I’ve just given a long list of all the cruft that is in DNA which should make us think it was not intelligently designed. No matter who started with the burden of proof, we’ve ponied up and presented evidence and not only have you not done so but you haven’t even acknowledged or responded to what we’ve given. Very bad form.

            3. You start by talking about the origins of life and so ought to be dealing with the origins of the first DNA molecule, yet all of your arguments seem focused on modern DNA which is the product of 3.5 billion years of evolution. Which is it?

            If we’re talking about the origin of the first DNA, then it would have no specified information at all and so your argument is destroyed. If we’re talking about the form of modern DNA, you’ve already stipulated that you accept evolution including genetic changes and so you argument is destroyed.

            Either way I don’t understand why you keep harping on and on about it. What’s the relevance and what do you think you’re showing?

            And for those people who keep seeing the reference to SciAm with no link, here it is: http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=pssst-dont-tell-the-creationists-bu-2011-02-28

            • Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

              Tyro,
              I am talking about the Origin of Life. That’s what this whole discussion has been about from the beginning. How can you possibly say that the first DNA based bacterium had no specified information in its DNA? If it had no specified information it could not function. DNA is digitally encoded information. We understand very clearly what digitally encoded information is. Somebody 3.8 billion years ago obviously did also. If you are going to tell me that DNA “evolved” in a step by step process from RNA, then demonstrate it empirically. In fact because of any number of intractable chemical problems with the RNA world theory, many scientists are moving back towards the “molecules from outer space” idea. Good luck.
              It seems to me the crux of your objection is that the first DNA did not have specified information. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Could you please explain.

              • Tyro
                Posted March 14, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

                Rabbi,

                As you say, we’re talking about the origins yet you keep talking about the “specified information” in the first forms of life. How many base pairs do you imagine were present in the first organism? It seems to me that much of your argument hinges on the information present in organisms today, not as they existed in the past or have I made a mistake?

                If the earliest organisms didn’t have 600k+ pairs but DNA/RNA started with instead a handful of pairs then talks of specified information are laughable. If instead DNA first started with several thousand base pairs which already encoded several proteins (basically life poofed into existence) then sure we’d have a problem but that’s only the story told by ID creationists so you can hardly use this as support for ID.

                So yes, just what “specified information” is there in DNA with a handful of base pairs? About as much as there is in a string of coin tosses, I’d say – certainly not anything which is likely to require an intelligent designer, lest we also require divine intervention to explain card shuffling.

                If you’re working on a different understanding of how much information you think needs to be explained, why don’t you take a turn elaborating, if you please.

                As for panspermia or molecules from outer space, JC here and PZ Myers have criticized this extensively so if some people are jumping on this bizarre bandwagon, it isn’t in an attempt to deny ID.

            • Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

              Tyro,

              You are almost there. the simplest living organism that we know of is a bacterium. There is no evidence whatsoever that there ever was anything before a bacterium. Everyone agrees that it is absurd to imagine a fully formed DNA based bacterium popping out of the prebiotic swamp. It is your burden to prove that there is a plausible path from inorganic materials to the bacterium. I have made the simple falsifiable prediction based on the functional complexity and the enormous amount of specified info in a bacterium that you will never find a plausible, empirically demonstrable naturalistic explanation. The only reasonable explanation is a supernatural creator.(This is because of the dilemma of the infinitely regressing series of creators.)
              Look forward to your answer

              • Posted March 16, 2011 at 5:44 am | Permalink

                I know I am wasting my time with this fundamentalist, but… The simplest organism that you know of is a bacterium. If life arose in stages, there were precursors, so the first life bas not a bacterium. This has been pointed out to you before and ignored. The way you frame your arguement is to deliberately skewer it in your favour. You are trying to set the rules by making a vague definition of what the first organism was with out reference to its actual genetic makeup. You expect us to accept this as the starting point of your arguement. However, you have not demonstrated why the first life form must meet your requirements – you exclude every other posibility and choose this option without justifying it. The very nature of your claim demonstrates a denialist attitude. This is a transparent and dishonest strategy. I have also asked you several times to tell me exactly what genes this hypothetical first bacterium had and each time you avoided the question.

              • Tyro
                Posted March 16, 2011 at 5:57 am | Permalink

                Hmm…

                We know how information gets added to a genome via evolution and we know that life has had about 3.5 billion years of evolution to grow the genome. You even claim to accept evolution and clam to merely have a problem with the origins of life, yet your argument appears to be:

                1. insist that life must have emerged fully formed in its modern state with no precursor

                2. clam that this is actually what scientists believe

                3. claim that the difficulty of achieving this is so great that life must have arisen in its modern state with no precursor through divine intervention

                Is that somewhat close to accurate?

                I’ll ask again: how many pairs did the first RNA or DNA contain?

              • Posted March 16, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

                Averick, What do you make of this paper? To show that you understand the point, see if you can tell me why I am posting it http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0000096
                Hint: something to do with lack of design and evolution of function

  2. JBlilie
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    You can certainly argue strongly against his views, but if we want him to reply, it would behoove us to be polite.

    Thanks Dr. C. This is one of the things I love about your website.

    Using profanity is, generally, just name calling and an abdication of the responsibility to provide a pursuasive argument.

    • Posted March 16, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      This is a reply to BILLY AND TYRO,

      I don’t think you realize that you are operating on the unproven assumption (i.e. article of faith) that there was any type of simpler life before the simplest bacterium that we know of today. both of you keep talking about “simpler” life forms and “precursors” to the bacteria that we know of today.
      Perhaps a fellow non-believer, Professor Michael Yarus of U. Of Colorado can help you out: from “Life from an RNA World”, page 37: Put another way, the conceptual gap between geochemicals and things alive seem the most formidable leap required in the telling of this story. Should non-rational explanation ever play a role, the smart money would bet on its taking a role in origins.” The immense challenge of Origin of Life researchers is due to the fact that no evidence exists that there ever was anything before a bacterium.
      Dr. Lynn Margulis: “How matter in a bath of energy first accomplished the feat of life is not known…how did the first bacterium originate? Again, no one knows.”
      You have simply made the a priori assumption that there is no Creator and that life emerged by some as-yet-unknown step by step process. There is nothing even remotely approaching conclusive evidence that there ever was any life before a bacterium as we know them today. Why is this point so difficult to understand? I

      The facts on the ground are as follows: We have the simplest bacterium that exists, we know that bacteria existed 3.8 billion years ago and there is no evidence of anything before it. There are only two possibilities how that bacteria got there 3.8 billion years ago. either it was created by a supernatural creator or it emerged through a naturalistic process. Since evenn the simplest bacterium is functionally complex beyond our imagination, it seems quite reasonable to assume that it was the result of intelligent design (i.e a supernatural creator) If you have no evidence that there is a plausible path from non-life to the bacterium, at least admit it straight out like all Origin of Life researchers have. If it did not emerge naturally the only other option is yes, “God (a creator) did it”- Whenever you have evidence that life can come from non life, present it and I guarantee you a Nobel Prize and that you will win the million dollar Origin of Life prize that currently is available.

      • Posted March 18, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        Constant quote mining gets you nowhwere. Typically, you distort what is being said and avoid issues. I asked you to tell us the genetic makeup of the first bacterium. I asked you to comment on a paper showing evolution of function from random DNA.
        Fossil bacteria tell us nothing about their genes. You are making a totally unfounded assumption that they are as complex as modern bacteria. I also point out again that you are working from an unproven assumption that a bacterium is the simplest possible form of life. It is you who has the burden of proof upon them. Your attempt to place that on us is either dishonest or intellectually naive. Which is it?

        Nw, prove no life simpler than a bacterium could exist. Without such proof, your case is a non starter. What you either fail to realise or wish to deny is that if abiogenesis is true, the first life is not complex. Complexity and “information” can increase with selection. Prove this can not happen. Plenty of evidence shows it is plausible, so show it isn’t – and quotes taken out of context don’t constitute evidence.

        Another question for you to avoid: What traces do you think simpler life would leave?

        Prove I’ve made an a priori assumption or shut up – it’s becoming like a broken record. You can’t provide proof, so you throw out accusations – like your labelling of Jack Szostaks work as childish propaganda that is not endorsed by him.

        • Posted March 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

          Also, please define naturalistic and non naturalistic. I suggest you are the one making the assumptions – I’m saying, go on, show me. I need not prove anything. All I need do in decide whether your case is good. Believe me, it’s not! You have done nothing more than claim that a modern bacterium is as simple as it gets (no evidence shown). You have quote mined those who believe abiogenesis is plausible, but done it in such a way as to distort their views on this.

          Tell me, how long have you been a Jew? Don’t you think if you were born to different parents you might have a different religion and a different creation myth? Don’t you think that has shut your mind? Science should be independent of cultural factors (awaits list of examples of bad science in quote mine format)

          • Posted March 19, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

            There is no evidence that anything simpler than a bacterium ever existed. This is why Origin of Life researchers are so baffled. How do you make that leap. If you are saying that there are steps in between, demonstrate it empirically.
            I am posting a full set of answers to the questions that I’ve seen many times on the site. Perhaps we can work off of that.

            Of course I have thought very seriously about the idea that most people are for the most part products of their upbringing. You face the same dilemma. If you were raised in Saudi Arabia or Gaza City, there is a good chance you’d be a fanatical Moslem. The only way out is to make an extremely determined effort to evaluate your ideas and seek truth with a passion. In fact every human being on the face of the planet (including Jerry Coyne) is faced with that dilemma.

            • Posted March 20, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

              There is no evidence that anything simpler than a bacterium ever existed.

              A cop out answer. Are you saying that your posityion is based on a lack of evidence? Like i said, you know nothing about the biochemistry and genetics of the earliest fossils – you have no case.

              This is why Origin of Life researchers are so baffled

              For the last time, they are not baffled. They have shown it is plausible – self replicating molecules, selection of molecues, formation of protocells…… You are confusing plauasability with the exact mechanism.

              How do you make that leap. If you are saying that there are steps in between, demonstrate it empirically.

              Again, you avoid the answer and try to reverse the burden of proof. I have already shown you possible intermediate steps

              • Posted March 20, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

                Billy,
                It seems clear where we part ways. The notion that specified information and functional complexity are the results of intelligent intervention does not need to be proved, it is a given. What evidence do you have to contradict this fact that all human beings accept? Darwinian evolution is irrelevant to this entire issue. The criticaljuncture where you must show that “nature” can produce information and functional complexity is the one place where you have nothing but speculative theories. That is the gap in between non-life and a bacterium. If your answer to this is your assertion that scientists have already found plausible pathways, then this is where we disagree. Even Dr. Coyne in his attack on me admitted that there is no scientific answer at the present. He says that I should wait another 50 years for the answer. I referreed you to the article by Dr. Joyce and Dr. Robertson, and the ongoing statements of Dr. Robert Shapiro among others. If you feel that this is quote mining, then there isn’t really much else to talk about. When Gerald Joyce says there is no “realistic scenario” for the RNA World, he means exactly what he said. All the work done so far is completely dependant on the highly intelligent intervention of brilliant scientists using cutting edge laboratory techniques. If you think otherwise then so be it. When John Horgan writes that scientists have no idea how life started, he means it exactly the way he said it. You seem to have a hard time accepting that. I’m not sure what else there is to say.

              • Posted March 21, 2011 at 5:17 am | Permalink

                The notion that specified information and functional complexity are the results of intelligent intervention does not need to be proved, it is a given.

                Sorry, but this is utter rubbish. You have not shown that this is true of organisms. You have not shown that information gain by naturalistic processes is impossible. Your “arguement” starts with a fully functional bacterium. All you do is insist that this is the most primitive form of life possible (although you never define it’s properties, so you yourself don’t even know what the starting boundaries of your own arguement is If you can’t see why that is a problem, then I’m not wasting any more time on you

                The criticaljuncture where you must show that “nature” can produce information and functional complexity is the one place where you have nothing but speculative theories.

                Slaps head! You do’t get the whole burden of proof thing do you? You claim organisms cant arise by abiogenesis, so you have to prove it. I don’t have to disprove it. If I say the sun rises every morning because an invisible giant lifts it, would you ask for proof or should I ask you to disprove it? It really is a basic concept that you just don’t get.
                I also assume that you did not read the paper I posted that shows evolution of function from random DNA sequences – this is enough in itself to disprove the notion that “information gain” requires a designer. However, you need to prove your case.

                Even Dr. Coyne in his attack on me admitted that there is no scientific answer at the present.

                So what? Did he say it was impossible? Even if he did say it was impossible, would that make it impossible? Did he say there were no good models? Did he say the basic phenomena were not there? No, he did not! Neither did any of the other authors you cite. When we don’t know something, does that mean we just give up and say it must be the god of the jews? This is just another big god of the gaps fallacy. Ahain, I will waste no more time on you.

                I referreed you to the article by Dr. Joyce and Dr. Robertson, and the ongoing statements of Dr. Robert Shapiro among others. If you feel that this is quote mining, then there isn’t really much else to talk about.

                What part of the JBC paper I previously gave you refuting Shapiro on the synthesis of RNA did you not understand? What part of any of your misrepresentations of abiogenesists actually constitutes real evidence instead of opinion made in the current era of understanding? That’s right none. Again, you use the argument from authority fallacy to misrepresent others to promote your view. I don’t care what anyone’s opinion is. I want to see evidence. I’ve already pointed this out, you are confusing plausability with the actual route life took. Suppose we can “create” life by several mechanisms. They can’t all be the way that current life arose (none may be). Does this disprove that abiogenesis did not happen, or does it show that it is plausable? If it is plausable, then your claims need even more evidence to back them up. You have been shown enough that suggests it is possible. Interestingly, you play the denialist card here.

                There was a time when scientists had no idea how embryos developed. Using your logic, that would mean god knits them together in the womb (I’m sure you know the verse). It couldn’t possibly be explained by gene regulation pathways and changes in cell behaviour now, could it? Do you understand this point? Claiming that there is no scientific consensus means nothing. It does not mean that the “magic” position wins by default.
                You have provided nothing concrete and you are incapable of grasping the fallacies that you are using. I my read your response, but unless you show greater abilities in it, don’t expect a response

              • Posted March 21, 2011 at 5:44 am | Permalink

                Here is what you need to do. You need to genetically define your first hypothetical bacterium. Then, you have to show that the genes it has could not have arisen from from earlier genes by known mechanisms.

                The problem of course it that you can’t do that, so why do you think you even have a case? You want to claim there was design, but you don’t even know what the original design could have been.
                As I’ve pointed out before, your arguement assumes a level of starting complexity – although, you constantly refuse to say what that is. It does not account for how that complexity arose – whether in natural increments or by magic. Good luck

  3. J.
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Jerry – please note that this is not representative all Orthodox Rabbis. I myself am an Orthodox Jew, who, surprisingly enough, reads and enjoys your site on a regular basis and thoroughly disavows the line of thought pursued by this Averick fellow. Eat your corned-beef sandwiches with mustard – much tastier than tears.

    • Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      J, do most Orthodox Jews believe that life came about naturally, with no intervention by G_d whatsoever?

      This would seem to run contrary to the Hebrew Bible, which repeatedly asserts that humankind (and everything else) was specifically created by G_d.

      • Ossicle
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        Your keyboard’s broken.

        • Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

          Hey, I’m trying to be culturally sensitive. It takes a few special characters.

          • Badger3k
            Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

            Special characters – like god? I just can’t understand why someone would treat god like a swearword, especailly since the term “god” is not his name, just what we call him in English. I could see not using the tetragammon, since at least that is in his original language, but using a foreign language term that is also the generic term for any deity…what idiocy.

            • Heber Gurrola
              Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

              That’s because the ineffable word G-D is so holy that if you actually do pronounce it or even type it without censure something bad may happen to you. And it will since you just did!

              • Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

                There a Shekhinah over my “o” key even.

                Wait, that was just something I spilled on my keyboard during lunch.

            • Dominic
              Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

              Well done Badger using a lower case g. It – god – is an idea not a name. And a pretty dim idea at that.

            • Patrick Julius
              Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

              Honestly, I don’t see why one should be afraid to say “Yahweh”.

              Why should an omnipotent being have a problem with his creations using his name?

              • Michael Kingsford Gray
                Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

                Are there any women here today?

                Very well, by virtue of the authority vested in me …

              • Badger3k
                Posted March 10, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

                This is a god who seemed to get offended at the drop of a hat. Plus, controlling what one says is a pretty standard way of maintaining authority, and priesthoods (and more) the world over consistently used this technique. Control the trivial, and you build up a base for larger issues.

      • Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

        RAY,
        No orthodox Jews believe that life came about naturally with no intervention from God. There may be differences of opinion on the specific method of intervention, but you are correct in your conclusions that to deny that would deny the story in the Torah.
        I am not talking about the age of the universe or pre-Adam/Eve humans (i.e. humans that were not “in God’s image”), those are completely separate issues, and on those there is a wide range of “mainstream” orthodox opinions. The text of the Torah does not deal explicitly with those issues and there is no fundamental dogmas about the age of the universe or the existence of pre-adam/eve humans. In fact, a number of kabbalistic sources put the age of the universe at anywhere from 10 to 20 billion years old.
        There are many sources that talk about humans who existed before Adam and Chava. (These sources predate evolutionary theory by millenia.)They did not have the same Godly soul as they did, but they were certainly very similar in most other ways.

    • latsot
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink

      As Jerry surely knows, corned beef in the UK is a very different thing. It is quite horrible: a mixture of flavourless jelly and unidentifiable scraps of mystery meat.

      I’ve never yet found proper corned beef in the UK. I’ve told my wife about it with some enthusiam and she understandably looks at me like I’m crazy. I should start a campaign for proper corned beef in the UK.

      • Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

        corned beef isn’t that hard to make at home. you’ve just got to brine your brisket for about a week or so in the fridge, then cook through and slice.

        here’s a decent recipe: http://homecooking.about.com/od/beefrecipes/r/blbeef29.htm

        saltpeter is optional and mainly for color. they say 3 weeks, but 1 week is quite enough in my experience. you may wish to increase the level of pickling spice for a shorter brine. also, if you can find it, point-cut brisket (aka second cut aka dickel) is fattier and tastier.

        • latsot
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

          I have actually made corned beef with reasonable results. And thanks for the recipe. But I don’t want to have to make it, I want to be able to get it in a sandwich wherever I go.

          • Dominic
            Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

            Corned beef properly comes from Argentina – or sometimes Brazil, in a tin. The best way to eat it is covered in batter as a fritter!

      • Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

        This London shop carries pastrami at least: http://www.kosherdeli.co.uk/

        There’s also a “Zvika New York Deli” listed near Tottencourt Court Road station that got some good reviews. I’ll have to try it sometime.

      • Michael Kingsford Gray
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

        Is not there a difference betwixt “corned” beef and “salt” beef?

  4. Wrysmile
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    If someone was thrown out of a Las Vegas Casino for winning 100 hands of black jack in a row and then pleaded, “I know it seems miraculous that I won so many times by luck, but god did it” we would laugh at such a ridiculous argument..”

    • Badger3k
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Well, to be fair, I doubt he would be thrown out. jailed or “disappeared” would be the more likely occurrence.

      • Marella
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        They’d have chucked him out long before it got to a hundred. Casinos are there to win, not to play games!

      • Patrick Julius
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

        Not true! America has laws, and those laws apply even in Las Vegas. People who count cards can be forced to leave, but no harm may come to them (otherwise the casino can be charged with assault). People who cheat can be forcibly removed, made to forfeit winnings, banned, and fined; but again, they cannot be physically harmed except in self-defense.

        • Badger3k
          Posted March 10, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink

          Legal harm, sure. While legally, they might kick someone out and ban them from the casino (and notify others), I am sure there are cases of more…physical…means of removing and banning. Especially in less public places.

  5. Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Rabbi, what Dr. Coyne actually said about this was:

    Nope, we don’t yet understand how life originated on Earth, but we have good leads, and abiogenesis is a thriving field. And we may never understand how life originated on Earth, because the traces of early life have vanished. We know it happened at least once (and that all species descend from only one origin), but not how. I’m pretty confident that within, say, 50 years we’ll be able to create life in a laboratory under the conditions of primitive Earth, but that, too, won’t tell us exactly how it did happen—only that it could. And if it could, then we needn’t postulate a much less parsimonious celestial deity, especially one who forbids you to eat bacon, or enjoy meat and cheese at the same meal.

    This is pretty far from your assertion that Dr. Coyne asserted “that we do not know how life started on Earth but he is confident that in 50 years or so Science will figure it all out,” and your extension that he is expressing a “faith in Science”. Rather, he’s just predicting that we’ll soon have some plausible mechanisms to explain life’s origins, although we may never know whether those proposed mechanisms were what actually brought life about.

    Now, let’s look at your field of expertise: from modern biblical scholarship, we know pretty well where the Torah came from and how, and it wasn’t from G_d. It’s entirely a human compilation, and no divine factors are necessary to explain it. Do you have faith that runs contrary to the evidence about that?

    • Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      crick was the one who referenced 50 years.

      • Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        doh. it was coyne. am dumb.

        • Dominic
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

          Not dumb, you just lack divine guidance! As with everyone else – if only they knew…

  6. SLC
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Mr. Avericks’ comment is what is know in the philosophical trade as the logical fallacy “argument from personal incredulity”. Or to put it another way, “I don’t understand how natural processes could have produced x, therefore god did it.”

    The problem with such arguments is that they are science stoppers. After all, if god did it, there is nothing further to research.

    Consider the case of Issac Newton, generally considered the most important scientist who ever lived (with apologies to Prof. Larry Moran). After showing that his inverse square law of gravity and his equations of motion correctly predicted the observed elliptical orbits of the planets, Newton became concerned that the interplanetary interactions might cause the solar system to become unstable after short periods of time. Instead of attempting to compute these interactions, he was content to opine that, every once in a while, god intervened and provided a nudge to keep the system running. The appeal to personal incredulity by Newton stopped him from further investigation. About 100 years later, the French mathematician/astronomer Laplace was unsatisfied by this explanation and sat down and computed the interplanetary interactions, using a technique known as perturbation theory. His calculations showed that, in fact, the planetary orbits were stable over long periods of time. Famously, he submitted a copy of his treatise on the subject to Napoleon who, after, reading it asked him what part god might play. Laplaces’ response was, “Sir, I have no need of that hypothesis!”

    This is only one example of the failure of the argument from personal incredulity over the history of science. Every time someone has credited divine intervention as the explanation of an as yet unexplained phenomena, eventually natural explanations have been shown to be perfectly sufficient. Most members of the scientific community have little doubt that, eventually, natural explanations will prove sufficient in the cases of the origin of the universe and the origin of life.

    • Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      another problem with the argument from personal incredulity is that they are illogical, a species of non sequitur.

      • Rieux
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        Consider the case of Issac Newton, generally considered the most important scientist who ever lived (with apologies to Prof. Larry Moran).

        I like Larry, but Larry is definitely not the most important scientist who ever lived.

        • SLC
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          That wasn’t stated very well. Prof. Moran insists that Charles Darwin was the most important scientist who ever lived. I like to rattle his cage over on his blog by citing Newton every time he cites Darwin.

          • Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

            Thanks, I also was wondering about this Moran person and how he could be so important without being better known.

          • Dominic
            Posted March 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

            Wallace…

            • Marella
              Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

              Spiritualism …

              • Dominic
                Posted March 10, 2011 at 2:35 am | Permalink

                I knew someone would say that!
                …true, but still a shining star!

      • Ryan Cunningham
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

        It’s actually worse than a non sequitur. It’s self-contradictory. You’re literally arguing, “We can’t know how this happened, therefore we know how it happened.”

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      the logical fallacy “argument from personal incredulity”. Or to put it another way, “I don’t understand how natural processes could have produced x, therefore god did it.”

      This seems to be an enthymeme, a syllogism with a missing, implied premise. To turn this into a proper syllogism, we merely need to supply the missing premise: “If I personally don’t understand something, then God did it.”

  7. Ken Nardone
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Why is it up to the athiest to prove it? Shouldn’t they be required to prove ID or supernatural supersticion?

    • Ray Thaw
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      Their “proof” comes from The Bible et al…invoke God and, as SLC says above…science stops…so does any point of arguing further…as soon as the supernatural is invoked there is no sense in continuing the discussion with that person(s)…but do point out that they have no actual proof…if you want to rattle them a bit.

    • Rob
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      *ding*

      The one with the positive claim provides the evidence.

  8. JBlilie
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    I’ll limit myself to one point that the writer makes. Rabbi Jacobs did not take Francis Crick’s statement out of context. Crick was being totally candid when he said that it looks like life is a miracle. His caveat afterward is only a reflection on his own illogical and unreasonable committment to atheism. Just because Crick did not have the intellectual integrity to follow his very true assessment of the evidence to its logical conclusion is his problem, not mine.

    Absolute rubbish. The reason the rabbi included the quote was exactly what Dr. Coyne pointed out (hello?): To attempt to make it seem as if Crick thought that the origin of life on earth must have been a miracle.

    The reason Crick sides with naturalism over super-naturalism is because, in every single on of the (at least) thousands of cases where religion and science have been directly opposed, science has been correct, 100% of the time. He also sides with naturalism because there isn’t a shred of evidence for any gods and the evidence for natural origins for everything we know of is rife and overwhelming.

    You are utterly missing that point that these issues must be decided with evidence. Please provide your evidence.

    Just pointing out that we don’t yet know how life originated is not evidence for your god(s). This tactic has been disastrous to the credibility of religious apologists for the entire history of scientific inquiry: Because science (and naturalism) has always proved to be correct. Why on earth should we expect that to change in this case?

    The notion that something that contains the amount of digitally encoded specified information and is as functionally complex as a bacterium could emerge through an undirected process without intelligent intervention is such an absurd notion that it can be rejected out of hand.

    The notion that some intelligent entity existed/acted on earth before the development of metazoans through evolution by natural selection can be rejected out of hand: There isn’t the tiniest shred of evidence for any such thing.

  9. Vincent Vega
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    Sorry, Jerry, but I have to side with the good Rabbi on this one.
    Because after watching the below clip (you may have to cut-and-paste it into your browser, because, troglodyte that I am, I have no idea how to paste a proper link) I’ve become convinced that his world-view is so much more probable and reasonable than that of your science fellows with your fanciful ideas.

    • Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      Yeah, the flying rabbis 🙂

    • Ray Thaw
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      Well said…

  10. Eric
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Perhaps the good Rabbi should look up Archie Karas and the infamous “Run” he had in Vegas, where in the longest winning streak on record he turned $50 into $17 million over 6 months (and ultimately to 40 million before losing it all). While such streaks are rare, they are not only not impossible but have occurred.

    And while natural selection may be undirected, it is decidedly not random. Of course, I agree that the extraordinary burden of proof is on those making the claim for evolution by natural selection, and that burden has been met and then some through multiple converging lines of evidence, from fossils to genetics.

    • Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      So, how did it happen?

      God did it! Period.

  11. Insightful Ape
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Ha ha ha ha. This is so funny. Rabbi Jacobs didn’t mention Crick’s full quote so his readers couldn’t possibly know what he really meant unless they double checked. Now rabbai Averick is telling us it was Crick’s fault for ever having said the full quote in the first place? That he didn’t have integrity? Well why didn’t Jacobs mention the full quote and allow the reader to decide for themselves?
    To say we have confidence that science will have all the answers in 50 years is a bald faced lie. No one made that claim. We are investigating something that has happened only once in many billions of years. All we know is that we don’t know. You can’t get a guilty verdict based on your lack of knowledge.
    Lastly, rabbi, supposing that some intelligent being must have jump started life, how do you know it was your god? Why not aliens from outer space? Granted, the aliens left us no way to trace them.
    Neither did your god.

  12. stvs
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Crick was being totally candid when he said that it looks like life is a miracle.

    Complete bullshit, and insufferably ignorant.

    In fact, Crick’s higher goal in his projects to discover and decode DNA was to bury forever superstitions “crackpot” ideas like vitalism and religion. Crick was explicit about this.

    And so to those of you who may be vitalists I would make this prophecy: what everyone believed yesterday, and you believe today, only cranks will believe tomorrow.
    —Francis Crick, Of Molecules and Men, 1966.

    So let us be very clear about the science and the human motivations behind it. Though Darwin did not purposefully embark on an atheistic project, it is a fact that the discovery of DNA by Watson and Crick its decoding by Crick were explicitly motivated by their strong atheism.

    Watson’s quip about this atheistic/scientific project is the funniest:

    If we don’t play God, who will? —James Watson, The Lives to Come: The Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities, 1996

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Nice contribution, great quotes. Thanks!

      • stvs
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

        Be sure to read Watson’s biting Double Helix for more. Here’s a good one on Crick’s disdain of religion expressed while they were cracking DNA:

        [Religion] was clearly an error of past generations, which Francis saw no reason to perpetuate. [p. 64]

        And here is Watson’s view on the real utility of Christianity: to provide a gift-giving occasion on which to receive useful chemistry texts (which may in turn be used to unlock the riddle of life and undermine Christianity):

        Francis’ gift to me of a second copy [of The Nature of the Chemical Bond] was a good omen. On the flyleaf was the inscription, “To Jim from Francis—Christmas ’51.” The remnants of Christianity were indeed useful. [p. 101]

        • Diane G.
          Posted March 11, 2011 at 1:30 am | Permalink

          Trots off to add to Amazon wish list…

          Sounds fascinating!

  13. Sajanas
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    It would be interesting to hear how the Rabbi is able to play up the ID of bacteria into not eating pork. If God isn’t creating the world in six days, making Adam and Eve and Noah and Moses, but instead making bacteria, why be Jewish? Why follow the Law?
    None of that makes much sense to me… arguing for a deistic style intervention does not imply that all the other very specific Jewish traditions are valid. It just protects you from legitimate criticism that the world was not built as in Genesis, history did not occur as in Exodus through the very end of Kings, and if the Bible was made by God, than he deliberately deceived you, since it is certainly within His power to make His point with real history.

    • Patrick Julius
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

      Indeed! This is the problem with “sophisticated” religion; the more sophisticated you make it, the less it seems like religion.

  14. Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    If someone was thrown out of a Las Vegas Casino for winning 100 hands of black jack in a row and then pleaded, “I know it seems miraculous that I won so many times by luck, but it’s not IMPOSSIBLE” we would laugh as such a ridiculous argument.

    There’s an essential bit of context missing.

    If that 100-hand winning streak were part of a ten-year-long 100-hand-a-minute 1000-person marathon, nobody would blink an eye.

    Abiogenesis took tens, if not hundreds, of millions of years to occur on a laboratory quite literally the size of the Earth. Since the Miller experiments, we know that that laboratory produced amino acids with ease. And let’s not forget that there wasn’t any competition for the earliest life forms; they could have been (and assuredly were) embarrassingly simple, without any of the sophistication needed today to protect against being eaten or parasitized. Nor did they have to compete for food, mates, or parking spaces close to the mall entrance.

    Once thus bootstrapped, Darwin took over. If there’s any doubt about the effectiveness of Evolution by Natural Selection, I’m sure we can more than adequately address that, as well; for now, suffice it to say that Evolution is at least as solid as Newtonian Mechanics.

    But, before I finish, let’s take a step even further back.

    The abiogenesis blackjack game wasn’t just being played here on Earth; it’s played everywhere in the universe. It never gets started on the Moon or the Sun, but at least a few hands get dealt every now and again on the Jovian and Saturnian moons. And the same odds exist in every other stellar system. There are at least a hundred billion stellar systems in the Milky Way alone, and at least a hundred billion galaxies in the universe. Even if the odds of a planet having an environment suitable to abiogenesis are a billion to one, there’s still hundreds such planets here in the Milky Way. And even if the odds of abiogenesis occurring over a billion-year timeframe on a suitable planet are a hundred billion to one, there’re still hundreds of planets in the universe with life.

    That you’re reading these words on such a planet is hardly a surprise; you could only exist on a planet which won that lottery. If the casino had a club for roulette champions, would you be surprised to find that all the members had stories of amazing winning streaks to tell?

    Cheers,

    b&

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Wait…so you are telling me… there used to be no malls? Oh sorry, on rereading it I now understand. It was parking that didn’t exist.

      Great points, Ben.

      • Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        No, there were no other organisms to fight over parking spaces.

    • DKeane
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Love this comment. Ask a statistician what are the chances of winning 100 hands in a row and he/she would say “very small”. Win 100 hands of blackjack and they would say 100 percent.

    • mikekoz68
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      That’s a brilliant way of looking at it. Instead of examining the odds that life would start here on Earth, you could explain to the theist the billions of galaxies and thus billions of planets where life could have began, and it did begin on one of those planets that we now call Earth

  15. latsot
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    “You are entitled to your faith in science, it is protected by the Constitution.”

    I can never help but feel that statements of this sort are a kind of threat. A somewhat veiled and passive aggressive threat to be sure, but why would someone need to remind someone of the rights they are already exercising unless they begrudged those rights?

    Averick’s assertion about Crick’s motives is just plain weird. I read the passage as Jerry did. The words ‘appears’ and ‘but’ seem to make it clear: it *appears* that there’s a miracle *but* there’s no good reason to believe that’s actually the case. Is there really any doubt over what Crick is saying? Do we need to give his motives a second thought? No, because he expresses himself with perfect clarity.

    How Averick gets from there to an intimate understanding of Crick’s motives and supposed dishonesty is beyond me. It’s taking wishfull thinking a hell of a long way. How do you know this, Rabbi? How do you know he wasn’t just saying what the text seems transparently to reveal? Are you making this up because you think – wrongly – that it would support your conclusion that god exists?

    I won’t waste my time arguing against god-of-the-gaps because it’s a foolish position and not worth anybody’s time. But I’ll say this: there isn’t *a* burden of proof: the god/evolution dichotomy is false.

    We scientists stand up to our obligations for evidence pretty well, as a whole. We tend to justify our claims and if you doubt it, you can just check the references. It’s all there in plain sight. Sometimes regrettably behind paywalls, admittedly, but nothing is actually being hidden. Even if a researcher fakes a result, anyone who checks it can determine that a rabbit is away.

    Advocates for the god position sometimes try… but they always retreat into faith because they can’t find any evidence. There’s no interlocking trail of evidence of god from many disciples. There’s just no evidence at all.

    Give me some evidence, Rabbi, and I’ll consider what you have to say. Triumphantly point out gaps in understanding at an arbitrary point in time and I’ll guffaw at your feeble lack of understanding.

    What’s it to be?

    • Insightful Ape
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      Not to mention a strawman attack. No one has faith in science the way the good rabbi has faith in his invisible friend. Rather, it is qualified trust. And the rabbi betrays the fact that it exists in him, too, every time he uses the Internet.

      • Ken Browning
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        “…in his invisible friend.”

        Yes, or his non-spacial, not temporal, monumentally intricate non-neuronally sturctured super-personality. But he has faith that abiodivinis doesn’t need fifty years to be proven.

        • Ken Browning
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

          Sorry, make that nonabiodivinis (to be consistent).

    • latsot
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      Disciplines, of course, not disciples. Wonder where that slip came from.

      • Patrick Julius
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        Freudian!

  16. rodionsturmoil
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Actually, Moshe, the burden of proof on is you, for your claim is undoubtedly more fantastical. Think about it, what is more likely? That life on earth evolved within the confines of real and existing laws of nature (unless, you don’t believe in these, either??), which do exist and are supported by ample evidence, or that an omnipotent supernatural being created all life (as, perhaps, something to do on a Sunday afternoon?), for which there is zero evidence. If the probability of life evolving on earth seems unfathomably small to you, consider that the probability that a God exists would be infinitely smaller! Are you suggesting that the existence of a deity, something that would necessarily be more complex than anything known to man, is more probable? I’ll tell you what, Moshe, you are no different from all of the other willfully ignorant clergy. Your “arguments” deserve no response from “the author”.

  17. Dave
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    For anyone interested in a stimulating exploration of the origin of life, read Dawkin’s chapter “Origins and Miracles” in his wonderful book “The Blind Watchmaker.” One quick point on the rabbi’s comment. His ignorance of the issue is inherent in his claim that nothing “as functionally complex as a bacterium could emerge through an undirected process without intelligent intervention.” The origin of bacteria is not the problem scientists are wracking their brains about. The problem is the origin of the first replicating molecule. Once the first replicating molecule formed, the process of evolution could get going and all sorts of microorganisms could evolve.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      Yes, I think the rabbi totally misunderstands the issue.

      Just because prokaryotes are the simplest type of organism we have on Earth today, that doesn’t mean they’re the simplest organisms the Earth has ever seen.

      An analogy would be the automobile. Just because all automobiles have air bags and seat belts today, that doesn’t mean that such things have always been in cars. (And fuel pumps — the earliest Model Ts had to be driven backwards up hills.)

      • JBlilie
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        Backwards still works great on steep, loose hills in a 2WD truck! It’s the lowest gear and put the force in front of the CG, helping keep the truck on the road! Many a “road” I have descended and could not ascend except by backing up.

        • Grendels Dad
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

          Very true. I read that little factoid in a Hardy Boys book forty years ago and couldn’t wait to get my license to see if it was true. It’s funny where you pick up these things.

  18. Dominic
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Oh dear. What the rabbi thinks of as miraculous is undoubtedly not what most cotriibutors here & probably Crick would consider as miraculous. Common parlance uses the term to mean something extraordinary but within the realms of natural occurrence, whereas the Rabbi seems to take it as meaning the intervention of the supernatural, in other words a god of some description.

    • Ray Thaw
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Very well said…semantics is always a good diversion…

      • Dominic
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        Some might think it a miracle that Jerry’s team Spurs beat AC Milan tonight – Berlusconi’s mob – but you can bet that fervent ‘prayers’ were offered up by both sides. It is a miracle if it is in your favour perhaps, not if it is against you. Then we are back to the god who issues favours & punishments based on the weight of burnt offerings or prayers, who punishes with earthquakes because of women’s bosoms (recall that Iranian cleric last year).

        It is so silly.

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

          Since Spurs are the Jewish team, it’s clear who was chosen. Our victory was clearly a deity-created miracle. Now if only Yaweh will favor us over (Catholic) Barcelona!

          • Dominic
            Posted March 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

            🙂

          • CarlosT
            Posted March 10, 2011 at 12:51 am | Permalink

            Clearly, God hates Milan.

            • Dominic
              Posted March 10, 2011 at 2:36 am | Permalink

              It is a judgement on the Italian premier for his womanising.

  19. tofu
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Didn’t Jesus once say something about not throwing pearls before swine? I say this applies here in regards to trying to change the mind of an orthodox rabbi or any other religious fundamentalist, non-kosher as it is.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I don’t think there’s any danger of the rabbi trampling any of us to death. (Which was the original reason for not throwing pearls in front of pigs.)

  20. Darrell E
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    The quote in the OP attributed to Rabbi Moshe Averick reveals a person that either cannot, or is not willing to take the time or make the effort to, understand Jerry’s arguments. Let alone the science that backs up those arguments.

    Rabbi Averick, why should your arguments be taken seriously when you immediately demonstrate that you do not understand the arguments you are opposing? Unlike the common claim by religious proponents that a true understanding of their faith is difficult to come by, the concepts that Professor Jerry Coyne was relating in his comments, derived from the practice of science and rational thinking, are really not at all difficult to understand. If you were to leave your religiously derived preconceptions at the door you would surely be able to reach an accurate understanding of Professor Coyne’s arguments. Once you have achieved that, then you might be able to devise arguments worth listening to.

  21. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    The full quote showed that Crick believed no such thing.

    I should think not. In The Eighth Day of Creation by Horace Judson, Crick reveals that his atheism was a motivating factor for his scientific career:

    “An important reason Crick changed to biology, he said to me, was that
    he is an atheist, and was impatient to throw light into the remaining
    shadowy sanctuaries of vitalistic illusions…”

  22. Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Crick’s quotation amounts to this: “problem X appears insurmountable. But there are good reasons to think we will solve it.”

    anyone who says that quoting only the first part is representative of the source has an ax to grind. you may disagree that the reasons are good, but that doesn’t change the fact that the gist of Crick’s statement was that the insurmountable appearance of problem X was mere appearance. Any quote which does not reflect Crick’s intention is inarguably a misleading quotation.

  23. Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    The notion that something that contains the amount of digitally encoded specified information and is as functionally complex as a bacterium could emerge through an undirected process without intelligent intervention is such an absurd notion that it can be rejected out of hand.

    This notion probably is absurd, and indeed actual theories of abiogenesis are nothing like it.

    Once you have a simple replicator (simpler than a bacterium), the process which goes from replicator to bacterium is not undirected. Natural selection applies.

    Your failure to imagine a natural process which could create the first organism is not evidence that there was no such process, and it certainly isn’t evidence that goddidit. however unlikely it may be that an undirected process created the first bacterium, it must be more unlikely that an unspecified process created a being capable of designing bacteria.

    • Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      What’s more: even if you can prove that natural processes could not have created the first bacterium, you still have to prove that the supernatural cause resembles a deity.

      • Ray Thaw
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:40 am | Permalink

        I think the idea is that you don’t have to prove that supernatural causes…just have a little “faith”…

      • Kevin
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

        and if you prove that, then you have to show that it’s YOUR deity.

        Why Yahweh when Quetzalcoatl will do?

        • JBlilie
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

          My money is on Freya.

  24. Kevin
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Good grief, he’s channeling the Discovery Institute, Fred Hoyle and William Lame Craig.

    Are you sure he’s a Jew?

    I know that Craig has co-opted an Islamic argument for Allah as his own, but is this sort of thing common? “Borrowing” fundamentalist positions from other religions to support one’s views?

    Odd. Very odd.

    That said, how can we possibly begin?

    Perhaps first with the observation that the presence of a creative force is posited without evidence. And that the rules of rational inquiry demand that some evidence be presented in favor of propositions before we can judge whether they’re even a rational starting point.

    At this point in the proceedings, after 3500+ years of trying, no religion has ever provided even one smidgen of evidence that its truth claims are grounded in anything other than the imagination. For the older religions, those imaginations clearly show a primitive understanding of science. For newer religions, the claims take on the characteristics of their time (golden plates, for example; or aliens trapping souls in volcanoes).

    It is intellectually dishonest to claim that the case for any deity has to be made in the negative.

    So, perhaps we can just leave it at that. If you have proof of the existence of your deity beyond a “feeling” or your own sense of wonder when looking at a sunset or a puppy, then bring it on. Because there are probably 5000 or so atheists here who would be glad to have it.

    I suspect the sound of crickets chirping.

    • Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      is this sort of thing common?

      I think it goes back to at least Aquinas taking Ibn Sina’s arguments to support his own theology.

      • Kevin
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        So, intellectual dishonesty is just about as old as religion?

        It’s not a bug…it’s a feature!

  25. Sigmund
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Just sticking with bacteria, Richard Lenski’s E.coli experiments have demonstrated that evolution occurs in bacteria such that within a few years they are able to utilize new previously unusable foodstuffs. The rate of mutation can be determined through sequence comparison of bacteria taken at different timepoints.
    So evolution can occur at a certain rate and it can serve to produce organisms fit for new evolutionary niches. All we require now is enough time and we have a mechanism and opportunity for all the life we see around us. Of course that is not proof that it happened that way – what proves that question is the other evidence that the slow evolutionary descent argument necessitates. For instance the biogeography, fossil evidence and genetic sequence similarities of all life found to date.
    As for the beginnings of life?
    It’s a bit like asking what the first snowman looked like.
    We can probably never answer that one since the evidence will have long gone but if we show that molecular self replication is a possibility under a variety of alternative conditions that existed on Earth then we will have a very plausible mechanism. Unfortunately for the Rabbi’s argument all the biochemical evidence suggests that this is going to be much easier than he imagines.
    Personally I am hopeful that we some day send a spacecraft to Saturn to harvest some of the water plume from Enceladus to check whether life has begun there also.

  26. Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    “Rabbi Jacobs did not take Francis Crick’s statement out of context. Crick was being totally candid when he said that it looks like life is a miracle. His caveat afterward is only a reflection on his own illogical and unreasonable committment to atheism. Just because Crick did not have the intellectual integrity to follow his very true assessment of the evidence to its logical conclusion is his problem, not mine.”

    It’s perfectly okay to disagree with Francis Crick’s position and to say that yours makes more sense. But that doesn’t justify quote mining. You can’t make it look like Crick never defended his position just because you don’t agree with his defense. That is still dishonest. You are trying to tell us Rabbi Jacobs’ tactic didn’t count as quote mining because its victim was dishonest. That would be super immature, even if you were right.

    “If someone was thrown out of a Las Vegas Casino for winning 100 hands of black jack in a row and then pleaded, “I know it seems miraculous that I won so many times by luck, but it’s not IMPOSSIBLE” we would laugh as such a ridiculous argument. This is exactly what Crick does.”

    You and Rabbi Jacobs have been making this conceptual mistake repeatedly, and I don’t think it’s been addressed enough. Science does not claim that a bacterium, or an RNA molecule, came together one day when molecules randomly bumped into each other just right. Those are straw man arguments, and I can’t believe you two don’t notice yourselves making them. What science believes is that simpler replicating molecules, which are now lost to history, evolved into RNA, and then bacteria. If you simply want put G-d in that gap, then you would have a more honest position. Or, you could try a serious argument about the probability of what science actually claims. But I’m going to need you to quit with the straw men.

    “The writer admits that we do not know how life started on Earth but he is confident that in 50 years or so Science will figure it all out.”

    This is a small lie. Jerry Conye said he thinks we’ll find out how life could have originated, but not how it did. Not that this line of argument is relevant to much. He was just musing about the future. But you’re building your rhetoric
    on small lies, and anyone who sees this has a responsibility to point it out.

    “Whoever you are: You are entitled to your faith in science, it is protected by the Constitution. The notion that something that contains the amount of digitally encoded specified information and is as functionally complex as a bacterium could emerge through an undirected process without intelligent intervention is such an absurd notion that it can be rejected out of hand. If you want me to believe such a ridiculous idea then prove it. And don’t be a crybaby and ask for special consideration because we are unable to recover the evidence because of time factors.”

    We don’t want special consideration for our position. We just want regular consideration. We want you to consider our real position instead of those straw men.

    Our ancestral molecules are as much of a mystery to you as they are to Conye and me and everyone. You think we’re making absurd claims about how those molecules came to be, and we seem to think the exact same thing about you. But if you’re so confident that you’re right, that our position is so obviously absurd that it can be rejected out of hand, then why do you need to lie about it?

    “That is your problem, not mine. The extraordinarily heavy burden of proof is on you.”

    Damn, you got us.

    • Sigmund
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      steve said:
      “Jerry Conye said he thinks we’ll find out how life could have originated”

      Jerry Conye?

      Yo steve, I’m really happy for you, I’ma Let you finish, but Beyonce has one of the best videos of all time!

      • Posted March 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        Wow, I did it twice too. I must be Freuding something.

  27. Helen Wise
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Ima respect your request for polite, Dr. Coyne, but only because that’s the way I come out of the box naturally. Otherwise, I fail to see why Rabbi Averick is particularly deserving of it.

    Unless you invited him to submit his comment here, it looks to me that he has shown up uninvited, brought with him the “goddidit” argument, implied that you’re nobody–all with a condescending tone and attitude–in a single comment.

    It’s absolutely charming of you to think that if we behave ourselves, the good Rabbi will return to engage us in argument.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      + 1

  28. Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Shorter Moshe:

    “Francis Crick couldn’t have possibly actually meant what he said, because my beliefs dictate that what he said was wrong. And no special pleading from you! Only we get to do special pleading.”

    I’m actually being productive at work for a change, so I’ll let other people do the details.

  29. Villa
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    His caveat afterward is only a reflection on his own illogical and unreasonable committment to atheism. Just because Crick did not have the intellectual integrity to follow his very true assessment of the evidence to its logical conclusion is his problem, not mine
    This is pretty dishonest. If you want to disagree with the guy, fine.

    But the quote misrepresented the views of the person quoted. It suggested that he held a theistic position when he didn’t. You can’t explain away deceptive quoting with, “Well, he should have agreed with me.”

    • Villa
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      In my previous post, the following should have been in [blockquote] tags.

      His caveat afterward is only a reflection on his own illogical and unreasonable committment to atheism. Just because Crick did not have the intellectual integrity to follow his very true assessment of the evidence to its logical conclusion is his problem, not mine

      Somehow that didn’t come out correctly.

    • Posted March 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      If you read what Rabbi Jacobs wrote, it is obvious that he understood full well that Crick did not believe in Divine miracles. There was not even the slightest hint of that. It was simply to point out that Crick had no ideas how life began, and despite himself the only appropriate word he could think of was “miracle.”
      Did you actually read the article on the Huffington Post?

  30. Jhjeffery
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    The subject rabbi was eviscerated on the RD site as well. The thread was something like,”A Jewish Fundamentalist Argues . . .”

    It’s still active and worth a look. There are some pretty good jokes at the holy man’s expense.

  31. Dr. I. Needtob Athe
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    For someone to legitimately win 100 hands of blackjack in a row is extremely unlikely, yet, considering all of the gambling casinos in the world and the long history of the game, it’s not so unlikely that it actually happened at least once. It’s the same principle we observe regularly with lotteries: We might find it unbelievable that we guessed several numbers correctly and won the jackpot, but we find it perfectly believable that someone we don’t know on the other side of the state has won.

    Similarly, considering the size of Earth’s primordial oceans and the hundreds of millions of years involved, it’s not so unbelievable that an extremely improbable event like abiogenesis actually happened, or even that it was inevitable.

    And remember, abiogenesis only had to happen once.

    • Sigmund
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      The lottery analogy is useful because it suggests another additional factor. As far as we know life didn’t start at a random time within the 4.5 billion history of the Earth. It seemed to start very close to the earliest time that liquid water was around.
      In lottery terms this is like buying a new lottery ticket every day but winning the first week you play!
      Is it not only possible but ‘likely’ to win a lottery like this? Yes, but only on one condition, that the complexity of numbers is very simple – in other words you have to guess one or two numbers (between 1 and 10) correctly rather than the usual 6 numbers (between 1 and 50).
      What the analogy suggests is that the reason that life started so early is that the simplest forms of life are much more likely to ‘spontaneously’ begin.

      • Kevin
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        Yes, all the more reason to suspect chemistry rather than theity.

      • SAWells
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        Remember that “close to” here means “within a few tens of million years”; so it’s more like winning a lottery sometime in the first five hundred million weeks you play.

        • Kevin
          Posted March 10, 2011 at 5:50 am | Permalink

          …where you’re the only one playing and you have unlimited funding.

          All of the carbon on the planet was available for the chemical reaction. All of it. Look around. The carbon hasn’t appeared from anywhere else; nor has any of it left the planet (except outgassing of CO/CO2 perhaps).

          That’s a LOT of carbon.

  32. Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Arguments from Personal Incredulity you say? Hooray!

    ARGUMENT FROM CREATION, a.k.a. ARGUMENT FROM PERSONAL INCREDULITY (I)
    (1) If evolution is false, then creationism is true, and therefore God exists.
    (2) Evolution can’t be true, since I lack the mental capacity to understand it; moreover, to accept its truth would cause me to be uncomfortable.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    ARGUMENT FROM INCREDULITY (II)
    (1) How could God NOT exist, you bozo?
    (2) Therefore, God exists.

    ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN, a.k.a. GOD OF THE GAPS, a.k.a. DESIGN/TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (IV), a.k.a. ARGUMENT FROM PERSONAL INCREDULITY (III)
    (1) Isn’t X amazing!
    (2) I don’t understand how X could be, without something else (that I don’t really understand either) making or doing X.
    (3) This something else must be God because I can’t come up with a better explanation.
    (4) Therefore, God exists.

    ARGUMENT FROM IGNORANCE, a.k.a. ARGUMENT FROM PERSONAL INCREDULITY (IV)
    (1) I don’t understand evolution; I mean how could there be nothing then something?
    (2) (Well-informed atheist gives articulate explanation of evolution and gently explains that the beginning of the universe has nothing to do with evolution.)
    (3) Well it seems way too complicated and unlikely to me. Plus I don’t want to live my life thinking I evolved from a monkey.
    (4) Therefore, God exists and Jesus died for our sins.
    (5) (Atheist argues that theist’s ignorance of evolution does not logically lead to the conclusion that there is a god, let alone the Christian god.)
    (6) Says you! God bless.
    (7) Therefore, God exists.

    All taken from Hundreds of Proofs of God’s Existence, one of my favorite pages ever.

    • JBlilie
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the link (and the humor). Friggin’ (I can say friggin’, can’t I?) hilarious!

      • rodionsturmoil
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        Goddamn funny!
        Therefore, God exists.

    • Laura Norder
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      It puzzles me as to why the argument from personal incredulity only seems to work one way, namely, I don’t understand how abiogenesis and evolution could have happened, therefore it didn’t happen. How about the argument “I don’t understand how ‘intelligent intervention’ could have worked, therefore it didn’t happen”?

      • Sunscorch
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        It seems likely to me that this is because the people who are generally well-educated enough to accept evolution and abiogenesis, are likewise well-educated enough to realise that it’s not a valid argument.

        Or, perhaps we -are- capable of imagining how “intelligent intervention” may have “worked”, but that we also realise it’s just a little bit silly.

      • Posted March 10, 2011 at 4:20 am | Permalink

        The difference is, that naturalistic explanation provide positive evidence for their explanations – experiments, observations, research. Whereas supernaturalists just seize upon (real or perceived) gap in current understanding an assert “God did it”. That is why the argument from personal incredulity works only one way.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Great link, thnx.

  33. Norm
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    “something that contains the amount of digitally encoded specified information and is as functionally complex …”

    Sigh, somebody has been drinking deeply of the Dembski cool-aid.

  34. Veronica Abbass
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    The most telling part of Rabbi Averick’s comment can be found in the first sentence: ‘I don’t know who wrote the “response” to Rabbi Jacob’s article above. . . .’ It amazes me that Averick is replying to a post when he knows nothing about the person who wrote the post. He appears to have made no effort to even check out the site or read the information in the “About the Author” link.

  35. KP
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Dear Maverick

    Go learn some science. kthxbye.

  36. Paul
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Perhaps I was wrong to assume that rabbis have higher respect for science, and less tolerance for theological bullshit, than do Christian preachers or Muslim imams.

    When products are being recalled for chemical or biological contamination, it often turns out that a single factory is turning out all of the “competing” brands–different names, different colored wrappers, different marketing, but inside it’s all the same toxic product from the same source. That’s Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in a nutshell.

  37. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I’m all for being polite (but uncompromising about facts) but since Rabbi Averick holds opinions which are clearly beyond his expertise (i.e. abiogenesis, probability theory, evolution) shouldn’t we refer to him as Mr. Averick?

  38. Michael D
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    To reference the god delusion (which i am currently reading), winning the lottery may be improbable on its own, but not if you have enough tickets. If we say there are a billion planets in a galaxy and a billion galaxies in the universe. Now lets say that the chances of a planet like earth in the goldilocks zone is say 1 in a billion. That would give still give us 1 billion lottery tickets in that lottery.

    Winning the lottery becomes much more likely and less miraculous when you you have a billion tickets going in.

    • CarlosT
      Posted March 10, 2011 at 1:09 am | Permalink

      Extending the lottery analogy further, you have to also consider how often the drawings are held. If drawings are held weekly, then the lottery can go months without a winner. But if you held the lottery every day, then you’d probably have a winner much sooner. And if you held the lottery several times a day, then you’d probably get a winner even sooner. And if you held the lottery a billion times a day, you’d probably get hundreds, if not thousands of winners a day.

      For all we know, there may have been multiple opportunities for the event that caused the first self-replicating molecule to appear may have arisen millions of times per second. This would make even an extremely unlikely sequence of events almost guaranteed to occur in the millions of years there were available.

  39. Dan L.
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Ignoring the irrelevant posturing by the good rabbi:

    …Rabbi Jacobs did not take Francis Crick’s statement out of context. Crick was being totally candid when he said that it looks like life is a miracle. His caveat afterward is only a reflection on his own illogical and unreasonable committment to atheism. Just because Crick did not have the intellectual integrity to follow his very true assessment of the evidence to its logical conclusion is his problem, not mine.

    Here you make a claim about Crick’s intention when he made this statement (decades ago). Not only that, you seem to be claiming that Crick’s STATED motivation is incorrect, that you know better than Crick what he meant and why he said it. Finally, you impugn the man’s intellectual integrity instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt that he said what he did because that’s what he believed.

    So you defend a misappropriation of Crick’s statement by yourself misappropriating it. Not a great start.

    If someone was thrown out of a Las Vegas Casino for winning 100 hands of black jack in a row and then pleaded, “I know it seems miraculous that I won so many times by luck, but it’s not IMPOSSIBLE” we would laugh as such a ridiculous argument. This is exactly what Crick does. He admits that a naturalistic emergence of life is “miraculous”, but then quickly adds, “but it’s not impossible.”

    As others have pointed out:
    1) Evolution and natural selection are not strictly comparable to blackjack — in blackjack, each hand is (ideally) independent of the last whereas in nature each generation is (obviously) NOT independent of the one prior. This is the crux of idea behind evolution — that traits are heritable.
    2) Even though the blackjack analogy is not applicable, it still fails. At large scales (say, a million hands of blackjack) one would expect to have a run of 100 wins somewhere in the total. Statistics can be a little counterintuitive, but by increasing the sample size one can make an intuitively improbable event a near certainty. Someone gave the example of the lottery, which is a fine one. Another is solar fusion — the fusion of hydrogen ions into a helium ion is exothermic, and is the source of the sun’s energy output. It’s also incredibly improbable — much less probable than winning 100 hands of blackjack in a row. But there are so many hydrogen ions at such a high concentration at the center of the sun that hydrogen fusion goes from a near impossibility to as close to certain as you can get (as certain as the sun rising tomorrow).

    The writer admits that we do not know how life started on Earth but he is confident that in 50 years or so Science will figure it all out.

    Let’s look at what Prof. Coyne actually said:

    “I’m pretty confident that within, say, 50 years we’ll be able to create life in a laboratory under the conditions of primitive Earth, but that, too, won’t tell us exactly how it did happen—only that it could.”

    Not quite the same, is it? “We’ll have some good ideas about how it could have happened” versus “we’ll have it all figured out”? You should address the argument as stated rather than putting words in your opponents’ mouths. That was, in fact, the whole point of Prof. Coyne’s response to the other rabbi.

    Whoever you are: You are entitled to your faith in science, it is protected by the Constitution.

    This sort of statement blows your credibility. When you get on an airplane, would you describe yourself as “having faith in the pilot” the same way you “have faith in God”? I would think that would be an insult to God. After all, you can always go see, touch, and talk to the pilot. Confidence in the efficacy of a process (navigation, scientific investigation, plumbing) is obviously not the same as faith in the unseen. It troubles me that someone who has trouble with this distinction is calling himself a “rabbi.” If I was ethnically Jewish, I might even describe myself as “ashamed.”

    The notion that something that contains the amount of digitally encoded specified information and is as functionally complex as a bacterium could emerge through an undirected process without intelligent intervention is such an absurd notion that it can be rejected out of hand.

    1. There is no such formal mathematical concept as “specified information.” Dembski insists he has a theory about such a thing but has yet to offer any formal presentation of it. Until he does and the results are vetted by other professional mathematicians, the notion of “specified information” has no epistemological weight.
    2. This is purely an argument from personally incredulity. What does it mean for a notion to be “absurd”? Simply that you find it hard to believe. That makes it clear that despite the attempt to throw some jargon in, the assertion above is simply an expression of personal opinion — the personal opinion of someone who is obviously not well versed in mathematics, physics, chemistry, or biology. Long story short, what you would find hard to believe could — and probably does — fill a library.
    3. The inverse argument makes just as much of a convincing case:
    “The notion that something that contains the amount of digitally encoded specified information and is as functionally complex as a bacterium could emerge through an directed process with intelligent intervention is such an absurd notion that it can be rejected out of hand.”

    That is to say, a single bacterium is many orders more complicated than any artifact ever designed or constructed by a human being. This suggests to me that the complexity makes it LESS likely to be the work of an intelligent agent, as all the things designed by intelligent agents that we know of are much simpler than a bacterium (yes, even the space shuttle). This argument is actually more plausible than yours because one can derive design and engineering principles by analyzing actual artifacts designed by human beings, and none of those seem to consistently apply to biological phenomena.

    If you want me to believe such a ridiculous idea then prove it.

    Why should we care what you believe? The constitution entitles you to your arrogant, closed-minded opinions.

    And don’t be a crybaby and ask for special consideration because we are unable to recover the evidence because of time factors. That is your problem, not mine. The extraordinarily heavy burden of proof is on you.

    Burden of proof for what? We’re not the ones making the positive claim. The argument here from the science side boils down to this: we don’t KNOW how life arose in the first place, but we do know a bunch of details about the relevant chemistry. We’re just going to play with the chemistry and see what happens.

    Your argument is this: I don’t know anything about chemistry, but I KNOW for a FACT how the universe was created. It’s all in this book of highly dubious provenance.

    Our argument starts from a position of ignorance and tries to build up from the tiny little bit of stuff we do actually know. Your argument starts from a position of arrogance and makes sweeping statements about things that no one could possibly know.

    How about this: prove the Torah is divinely inspired. Don’t be a crybaby and ask for special consideration because we’re unable to recover the evidence because of time factors. That’s your problem, not mine. The extraordinarily heavy burden of proof is on you.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      +1 internetz for you.

    • sasqwatch
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Dude.

    • Atheist_Pilgrim
      Posted March 10, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Well done! +1 agreed!

  40. Tyro
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Just looking at the blackjack comment which is problematic on several levels. Of course it’s a silly analogy since it’s so far off how evolution actually works but let’s look at whether this parody is as impossible as he imagines. I’m thinking that humans are poor at extrapolating from our every-day lives to evolutionary time scales in large populations and think this may be yet another case. Let’s see…

    I tried to find the exact odds of winning a hand but since the payout is roughly 50%, let’s say there’s a 1:2 chance of winning, about equal to flipping a coin. To win 100 times in a row is about 1 in 1.3*10^30 which is pretty big. At one hand per minute, there isn’t enough time in the life of the universe to hit these odds. So far so good, this confirms our initial intuitions.

    However, evolution doesn’t work on on individual at a time so even if we needed to have all these changes happen at once to one individual (rather than progressively building up to the 100 wins), if we start with a population of bacteria in the ocean, we’re looking at 10^5/ml. Instead of using the entire ocean, let’s look at bacteria in just one of the Great Lakes (a volume of about 2*10^15 l), giving us about 2*10^23 bacteria in our sample population.

    Going back to our contrived blackjack analogy, if all of these bacteria were to play, it would only take about 10,000,000 deals before we’d have one player hitting 100 wins in a row just through sheer chance. That’s all of a sudden a manageable number, one that goes from being improbable to inevitable. At one deal per minute, we’d expect this to happen once every 20 years!

    Of course, as I said, the analogy is ridiculous as evolution doesn’t work like that. Adaptations like the eye don’t arise as single mega-mutations where 100 mutations all have to align in a single go.

  41. Ken Nardone
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I just finished The Belief Instinct by Jesse Bering and he wrote a lot about “theory of mind” and how our brains evolved to “create” god(s). It seems to me that religious creatures that hold on to supernatural nonsense just won’t let their brains expand beyond god(s). The theory of mind is so strong, it’s almost impossible for anyone to convince him/her that we are special enough to have evolved on this amayzing, natural planet!

  42. Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I assume now that the orginal response was written by Dr. Jerry Coyne. DR. Coyne, greetings, the first thing I need to ask of a fellow Chicagoan is if you are a Cubs fan or Sox fan. Be careful how you answer, your credibility is at stake.

    Now that we’ve gotten the important questions out of the way, we can deal with the trivial issues like the existence of God.

    First of all I’d like to point out that there was a subtle but crucial mistake in the way you framed my original comments. None of the comments that I made here, or in my book for that matter, are about Evolution or Natural Selection. My personal views about that subject are irrelevant; I will let the experts on both sides of that argument battle it out. In my book I said that getting into that fracas as a non-scientist is getting involved in the ideological equivalent of the Battle of Stalingrad. One of the major points of NONSENSE OF A HIGH ORDER is that Darwinian Evolution is simply irrelevant to the issue of the existence or non-existence of God/Creator. The only point worth discussing in this context is Origin of Life research, upon which there is unanimous agreement, that it is fundamentally and conceptually different than evolution.

    I will let a distinguished non-believing academic make my point for me. Professor Thomas Nagel of NYU (Philosophy and Law) wrote the following in review of The God Delusion which appeared in The New Republic (“The Fear of Religion”, October, 2006):

    “The entire apparatus of evolutionary explanation therefore depends on the prior existence of genetic material with these remarkable properties…since the existence of this material, or something like it is the precondition of the possibility of evolution, evolutionary theory cannot explain its existence. We are therefore faced with a problem…we have explained the complexity of organic life in terms of something that is itself just as fuctionally complex as what we originally set to explain. So the problem is just pushed back a step: how did such a thing come into existence.”

    Even as zealous a proponent of atheism/scientism as Richard Dawkins categorically states that he “could not imagine” being an atheist before 1859. The simple reason of course is that the organized complexity of the living world needs an explanation. Dawkins feels that evolution provides that explanation. In fact, he is mistaken. Professor Nagel points out the obvious: The question of explaining the organized complexity of the living world has not yet been addressed by Science. It has just been pushed back a step. In other words, with regards to this question we are conceptually in a pre-1859 period. (In case it is unclear, for arguments sake, I fully concede the truth of Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory)

    I find it hard to believe that anything I’ve written in this particular post, so far, is debatable, I think I’ve stated the obvious.
    I am quite aware of the current Origin of Life theories, and of course I am aware of what seems to be the most popular: THe RNA World theory. What would now ensue is a disagreement about the veracity or credibility of current Origin of Life theories.
    After researching the subject for about 2 years, I fully agree with Dr. Gerald Joyce when he writes in a 2010 article that he co-authored with Dr. Michael Robertson, that there is as yet no “realistic” nor “plausible” scenario for the RNA World theory. DR. Robert Shapiro of NYU agrees but is not so polite. He calls the theory a “fantasy” and it is as likely as “a golf ball playing its way around an 18 hole course by itself.” Renowned chemist Dr. George Whitesides stated that “on the basis of all the chemistry I know [a naturalistic origin of life] is astonshingly improbable.”
    None of the distinguished academics I have cited here or in my book are creationists or proponents of ID theory. They are all either atheists or agnostics. I am also aware that all of them believe that Science will one day find an answer. They also have faith in science. I ask the people who choose to respond, that if you feel I’ve taken these citations out of context, please don’t just childlishly accuse me of “quote mining.” Dr. Coyne claimed that a quote was taken out of context and he took the trouble to show why he thought that assertion was true. I disagree with his analysis, but I give him full credit for elaborating on his position.

    Sources: Dr. Robert Shapiro: Scientific American: “A Simpler Origin of LIfe.”
    Dr. Whitesides: Chemical Engineering News, from a speech he made upon accepting the Priestley Medal for Chemistry in 2007)

    My position is NOT that just because Origin of Life is a mystery that God must have done it. My position is that every human being from time immemorial lives by the simple reality that certain levels of specified information and functional complexity can only result from intelligent intervention. This is the reason SETI scientist wait for significant patterns of radio transmission from Outer space. If they received a radio transmission from the great spiral galaxy in perfect Morse Code stating that We here in the great spiral galaxy love your Rock and Roll music and could you please send us a digitally remastered CD of all the Beatles music, there would only be one of two conclusions: Either they had made true contact with ET, OR someone on Earth was playing a collossal joke. Nobody who had any connection with reality would suggest there was some undirected naturalistic explanation. The specified info in the DNA of the simplest bacterium and the order of its functional complexity is unmatched (or at the far edges of) by human technology.The only reasonable conclusion is that it is the result of intelligent intervention. Suggesting that we were seeded by aliens does not explain where it came from in the first place. The burden of proof is on the one who asserts that it could result from naturalistic causes. You have your work cut out for you.
    Sincerely, Moshe Averick

    • Tyro
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      If they received a radio transmission from the great spiral galaxy in perfect Morse Code stating that We here in the great spiral galaxy love your Rock and Roll music

      If we did hear that, I’d agree with you that it would indicate intelligence. It fits a human-built language, it contained no extraneous bits, and has no known or imagined mechanism for arriving naturally. Do you imagine that any of these apply to DNA?

      What are some of the characteristics of DNA that you think resemble an intelligent design? Which do not?

      The specified info in the DNA of the simplest bacterium and the order of its functional complexity is unmatched (or at the far edges of) by human technology.The only reasonable conclusion is that it is the result of intelligent intervention.

      Is it merely the complexity that you think singles it out as intelligently designed?

      Complexity is relatively easy, just look at fractals, snow flakes, crystals or the northern lights yet surely you don’t imagine that we need to invoke an intelligent snow flake designer or an intelligent quartz crystal shaper. Despite their complexity, they have other traits which mark them as arising naturally so why didn’t you consider any other factors when looking at DNA?

      • Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

        The characteristics of DNA that make it unmistakably the product of intelligence is the fact that it contains an encyclopedic amount of purely digitally encoded information. We did not even know what digitally encoded information was until relatively recently. Who knew about it 3.8 billion years ago. The code contained in DNA is “uncannily computer like.” (that was written by a Creationist named Richard Dawkins.) Enough said.

        As far as crystals, etc. Here is atheistic physicist Dr. Paul Davies: “Making amino acids is what a physicist would call “thermodynamically downhill,” which means it is a natural process that occurs automatically, like crystallization. But hooking the amino acids together into long chains to make proteins goes the other way. That is an “uphill”- a statistically more difficult or unlikely – process. Let me give you an analogy. It’s a little bit like going for a walk in the countryside, coming across a pile of bricks and assuming that there will be a house around the corner. There is a big difference between a pile of bricks and a house.”

        Australian Microbiologist Dr. Michael Denton: “Between a living cell and the most highly ordered non-biological system such as a crystal or a snowflake there is a chasm as vast and as absolute as it is possible to conceive.”

        The issue at stake is not COMPLEXITY, it is “functional complexity” and “highly specified information.”

        • Circe
          Posted March 10, 2011 at 12:35 am | Permalink

          The characteristics of DNA that make it unmistakably the product of intelligence is the fact that it contains an encyclopedic amount of purely digitally encoded information.

          I don’t think there is anything remotely “unmistakable” about that deduction. It is just an argument from incredulity.

        • Wrysmile
          Posted March 10, 2011 at 12:35 am | Permalink

          So how come god gets away with being functionally complex plus he/she/it must contain some highly specified information.
          Sorry but you believe that a being as complex as god must surely be just came about but that it’s not possible that on the early plant earth in that large bowl of chemical soup life (but not as we know it) couldn’t.

        • Posted March 10, 2011 at 3:07 am | Permalink

          Rabbi Averick, bringing Denton in the discussion is one of the worse things you could do.

          Now I pity you and I’ll find time during the WE to explain why.

          In the meantime you may stop quote mining, it’s painful.

        • Tyro
          Posted March 10, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

          The characteristics of DNA that make it unmistakably the product of intelligence is the fact that it contains an encyclopedic amount of purely digitally encoded information.

          If DNA was indeed like a computer program (ie: something clearly designed) then I agree, that would be interesting but is this really true? Let’s look at some defining characteristics of computer programs as opposed to the many other things we find on hard drives which are not designed.

          * Programs are optimized. They are as long as necessary to carry out their function, and no longer. DNA on the other hand is extremely wasteful, containing repeating nonsense codes, the remnants of viruses (ERVs), duplicated genes which have become nonfunctional and other junk which may total up to 80% of the DNA. I’m not talking about regulatory genes which are also non-coding but functional but the stretches of DNA which is completely non-functional.

          This ties into your “specified complexity” issue later – computer programs may appear complex but actually a lot of work has gone into making them no more complex than necessary. More on this next.

          * Programs have a clear, specific purpose and contain nothing extraneous; DNA contains a huge amount of waste.

          As mentioned above, it’s the *simplicity* and lack of complexity which marks programs as something special. Do we see this same simplicity and cleanliness in DNA? I think we see the exact opposite, a profligate waste and lack of coherence which is the mark of evolution and indicates the lack of any unifying purpose.

          * Programs do not replicate or breed; DNA does. This means that there is a clear, unguided mechanism to explain the origin of the information in DNA.

          I could go on but I think these are the key points. While it does have a structure which has elements in common with binary (and thus has some superficial aspects in common with computers), I don’t think this is a useful comparison in general.

          I would like to address the Dawkins quote in more detail as perhaps he is thinking of something else. Which book did you get that quote from? Can you supply more of the context so we can see why Dawkins said that?

          That is an “uphill”- a statistically more difficult or unlikely – process.

          I think you may have missed the bigger picture there by jumping onto only one of those examples. I was not saying that crystals reproduce or are exact analogues of life, only that they are complex and we don’t ascribe intelligence to them. You’re right that they form naturally but that’s was just my point – complexity isn’t a sufficient condition!

          Now you bring in thermodynamics which I’m sure you know has long been disavowed as a critique of evolution by creationist organizations. As to your direct concern, yes parts of metabolism is “uphill” (ie: requiring an input of energy) but there are endless examples of chemical processes like this which happen every day and we don’t make the mistake of saying their designed – processes like ice melting and all endothermic reactions like dissolving ammonium chloride in water. Even things like wind blowing dust into the air is “uphill” in a literal and analogous sense. What do these have in common? They all take energy from the sun and convert it to another form which may be used to do work.

          The issue at stake is not COMPLEXITY, it is “functional complexity” and “highly specified information.”

          Okay, no need to shout. You were the one that said we should be talking about complexity, not me.

          Okay, if you’ve dropped the “complexity” thing and are now talking about specified information, I think we’re getting somewhere. How do we identify it? If we come across something which appears to have some amount of “specified information” but also a lot of cruft, detritus and random noise, at what point do we decide it was designed?

          • Badger3k
            Posted March 10, 2011 at 11:14 am | Permalink

            Maybe the good Rabbi could explain CSI – we’ve been trying to get a coherent and workable definition from all the ID “stars” for years and they’ve never managed to do it. Even the creator of the idea has failed. Perhaps here we will have a winner?

        • Helen Wise
          Posted March 10, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

          Rabbi, every comment you write starts with some version of this statement:

          “The characteristics of DNA that make it unmistakably the product of intelligence is the fact that it contains an encyclopedic amount of purely digitally encoded information.”

          And it’s not just here, at Dr. Coyne’s site. You post this argument everywhere, over and over and over again. I cannot count the number of times that your argument has been patiently and carefully rebutted, but you just keep coming back, like the Energizer bunny with some fresh new version of the “goddidit” argument.

          I conclude that further engagement with you is a pointless time suck.

    • Saikat Biswas
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      My position is NOT that just because Origin of Life is a mystery that God must have done it.

      Really? Good to know. Moving on –

      The specified info in the DNA of the simplest bacterium and the order of its functional complexity is unmatched (or at the far edges of) by human technology.The only reasonable conclusion is that it is the result of intelligent intervention.

      So I guess your position is that because complexity is … well, too complex, intelligent intervention must have done it. And that’s very different from saying that God did it.
      If that doesn’t make perfect sense, I suppose nothing does.

    • Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      The specified info in the DNA of the simplest bacterium and the order of its functional complexity is unmatched (or at the far edges of) by human technology. The only reasonable conclusion is that it is the result of intelligent intervention.

      You wrote all that to fall back to ID and Creationism? Geez — I mean, Moze.

      Look at it this way: we know a lot about natural causes and how they work. We know nothing at all about supernatural causes or even if any have ever existed. Since you’re championing the latter, it seems that the “burden of proof” is yours.

      Good luck with that. There hasn’t been any progress on that front despite millennia of noise about it.

    • Sajanas
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      RNA world seems pretty reasonable to me, when you consider that the core of a lot of the critical enzymes necessary for very basic processes like the production of proteins and splicing RNA are comprised of catalytic RNA. Quoting people who disagree with the theory is not near as effective as quoting their evidence (which I’d be interested to see). The well ordered genes of a bacteria are actually surprisingly messy, with broken genes, genes that don’t work correctly, and genes that are clearly derived from other genes. Its not as if the bacteria were put down fully formed with independently created genes, each with its own purpose. The question of how life arose is hard, but it is not unsolvable, and to continue to believe in God rather than wait for further data seems a little unnecessary.

      And even so, whatever the Origin of life is caused by, why do you default to Judaism for the explanation, vs dozens of others. Dawkins made the point about evolution making it easier to be satisfied with the natural explanation of the world, but even the ancient Greeks realized that it was impossible to reconcile all the various divinities and creation stories into one core truth. They seemed, and are, just stories by primitive people to explain things beyond their ken, and I don’t see what is wrong with asking for *your* particular story to prove itself. There is no reason to expect, when we have seen no direct evidence of God in the billions of years after the last common ancestor arose, to expect God suddenly appeared and made life. It seems quite logical to conclude it was nature all the way back to the earliest mix of components. Natural Selection is a pretty powerful tool, even when its acting on things that we wouldn’t really consider ‘alive’.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      If you want to learn something about the field of abiogenesis, I can recommend the abstract book from the 14th International Conference on the Origins of Life, held a couple of years ago in Florence.

      Now, abstract books are of necessity in shorthand. But looking through those abstracts will give you some sense of the ongoing research, and will provide you with a great deal of supporting material in the form of citations that will allow you to further your education in this field.

      And in all of that, one clear fact shines through. The solution to the question of abiogenesis will be a natural one. One that does not require our positing a supernatural “shove” of any sort.

      It’s chemistry, pure and simple. Chemistry that gave way to biochemistry. We’ve known since the mid-1800s that there is no difference between the two — your “argument”, such as it is, it almost 160 years out of date.

      Now, you appear to be complaining that we haven’t yet found the answer. Well, that’s true enough. But that is somewhat akin to complaining in 1900 that no one had solved heavier-than-air flight.

      So, here’s where the rubber meets the road. If at some point in the future (say at the next International Conference on the Origins of Life — to be held in France this summer) someone provides a scientific methodology by which non-living chemicals can and do form into self-replicating molecules (aka, primitive life) do you take off the yarmulke? Do you shave your beard? Burn the Torah?

      Because your ENTIRE argument is predicated on science not currently knowing something. And science’s unbroken track record is to take that sort of contention and throw it back in your face.

      Lord Kelvin calculated that the age of the Earth wasn’t old enough to account for evolution. Then, we learned about radioactivity. And Lord Kelvin was forced to recant.

      What about you? If the evidence comes forth, will you de-convert?

      It’s only intellectual honesty I’m seeking here. I suspect your answer will be some sort of special pleading.

      • Kevin
        Posted March 10, 2011 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        As I suspected…hit-and-run “comment” that is merely a recapitulation of his earlier screed.

        Intellectually dishonest, close-minded troll.

        I’m with others on the point of treating this person with “respect”.
        Sorry, respect has to be earned.

      • Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        Actually, I make no special pleading at all. At every college audience I have spoken at they have asked me the exact same question. I will give you the same answer that I always give. My theory makes a very simple, falsifiable prediction. Just as you will never find a naturalisitic explanation for the shirt you are wearing, for a shopping list on a piece of paper, or the operating system of a PC, you will never find a plausible, empirically demonstrable naturalisitc explanation for the origin of the first bacterium. (Please see John Horgans 2/28/11 article on Scientific American online)

        If you do, I will withdraw from this entire discussion and will have to sit down and reevaluate my entire position.
        It is that simple.

        In fact, it is the non-believer who constantly submits special pleadings. Jerry Coyne recently attacked me on his blog, because of the popularity of a HufPost article by Rabbi Adam Jacobs where my book was mentioned. DR. Coyne agreed that there is no answer to the origin of life but asserted confidently that in 50 YEARS SCIENCE WILL HAVE AN ANSWER. In other words, you are right RAbbi, but just wait 50 years and we’ll answer all of your questions. If you want to wait around 50 years, be my guest. In the meantime, the burden of proof is on you.
        I ask for no special pleadings. If DR. Paul Davies can get up and state categorically, publicly and candidly at the ASU Origins Conference that nobody knows how life began, why can’t you admit it? And no special pleadings for you, that Science will one day find an answer. An honest response from your side would be, Rabbi, I have no answer for you, we are still looking into it and if we solve the problem we will call you.

    • Jesse Parrish
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Moshe Averick,

      The complexity of extant organisms and self-replicating molecules gains near-complete, not delayed, explanation through evolution by natural selection. The complexity problem is not simply “pushed back,” but reduced. This should be kept in mind if we are to attempt simultaneously assert the contrary of this while maintaining the conceptual distinction between natural selection and abiogenesis, which is quite valid. You cannot assert this distinction and claim that “The question of explaining the organized complexity of the living world has not yet been addressed by Science. It has just been pushed back a step. In other words, with regards to this question we are conceptually in a pre-1859 period.”

      Not just `stepped back’. Reduced. I repeat for emphasis.

      “My position is NOT that just because Origin of Life is a mystery that God must have done it. My position is that every human being from time immemorial lives by the simple reality that certain levels of specified information and functional complexity can only result from intelligent intervention.”

      This assumes the non-existence of atheists, so I can see why you are frustrated. But this is only a special case of argument from ignorance. Roughly:

      1. We don’t know how X occurred.
      2. X seems really complicated. (Intuition)
      3. Therefore intelligent design.

      You might understand that an atheist might not find this particularly persuasive.

      “If they received a radio transmission from the great spiral galaxy in perfect Morse Code stating that We here in the great spiral galaxy love your Rock and Roll music and could you please send us a digitally remastered CD of all the Beatles music, there would only be one of two conclusions: Either they had made true contact with ET, OR someone on Earth was playing a collossal joke. Nobody who had any connection with reality would suggest there was some undirected naturalistic explanation.”

      Notice that here we have another form of a common ID fallacy: “buildings have a builder”, “paintings have a painter”, “watches have a watchmaker”, and etc. Notice that these, along with your Beatles, are all examples of known and evidenced products of specifically human intelligence, but we do not have such experience of non-human creation. And this is only the beginning of the troubles with this argument, but for now, it suffices to note this down as an argument from analogy.

      “The specified info in the DNA of the simplest bacterium and the order of its functional complexity is unmatched (or at the far edges of) by human technology. The only reasonable conclusion is that it is the result of intelligent intervention.”

      The complexity difference across genomes is similarly beyond anything hitherto unmatched by human technology (by some standards). This argument works as well as a rejection of evolution; better, I would think. Further, that aforementioned fallacy has reemerged.

      “The burden of proof is on the one who asserts that it could result from naturalistic causes. You have your work cut out for you.”

      Actually, what you are asserting is that it is impossible in principle that naturalistic theories can provide a satisfactory theory. If this were the case, there would be no need to mention that no outstanding naturalistic theory of abiogenesis is accepted, since none could be valid. What is being asserted by those seeking natural explanations is that even though we lack an adequate theory, it is possible that one will be discovered. This is not a positive claim, but if it were, it is evidenced by the history of science that intractable problems (including many far more longstanding than abiogenesis) that solutions to difficult problems can be found. There is no burden of proof because there is no controversial assertion in claiming such possibility, unless you claim an in principle inadequacy of naturalism with regards to abiogenesis.

      Really, I could go on.

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

        I think the important codicil to your post is that while science does not currently have the answer, that does not then equate to the god hypothesis being true.

        It’s a false dichotomy fallacy.

        And especially does not prove the god of the Torah.

        Absolutely everything the rabbi says could well be true. Science may indeed never find an answer to the question (though my money’s on science). However, that in no way proves the contention that therefore, there is a god, his name is Yahweh, and I can’t eat pork.

        • Jesse Parrish
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

          That’s one of many, but since the Rabbi explicitly claimed that he was circumventing this faculty by appealing to a (falsely universal) intuition based on the classic `naive ID’ analogy.

          Actually, if this analogy argument were valid, there would be no need whatever to include the failure of extant theories as a premise at all.

          For the record: Averick’s defense of the quote-mining was disingenuous. Misrepresenting an author’s position by truncating a quote, whether or not you feel that the succeeding is fallacious, is still misrepresenting an author’s views. This is especially important when the quote-riddeling is presented as accomplishing some sort of admission of defeat on the part of the cited. It is ethically the same as the infamous Darwin `absurd in the highest degree’ quote, and Coyne was right to point it out.

          And I’ll also take the opportunity to reference my response to the HuffPo article I posted on Facebook before I discovered Coyne’s response, as there are other confusions which Averick may or may not share:

          “Summary:

          1. There is currently no satisfactory theory of abiogenesis.
          2. Therefore, God did it.

          …Yep. Oh, and any other conclusion would be `illogical’.

          Now I remember why I don’t bother reading apologetics anymore…

          I also have to add that he moves without announcement from abiogenesis to complexity generally, the latter of which does have a not-too-obscure explanation. I’ll give you a hint: the guy credited with discovering the modern theory had a r…eally awesome beard.

          Also, let’s see if our Rabbi is paying attention to what he is writing: He rejects multiverses (also a different category of explanation from abiogenesis) for being `unfalsifiable’. Granting that, he fails to notice that the same applies to supernatural explanations. Note also that the Rabbi assumes that the supernatural explanation he artues to is automatically a theistic god and a theistic god described by some (specifically is) religion. Even if his argument from ignorance was valid, it would still be both incomplete and rejected for his own reasons.

          ‎(Big one: Rabbi doesn’t seem to notice the difference between `accept the possibility of X’ and `assume X’. See his claim that naturalists must have `faith’ that scientists will find a well-supported theory of abiogenesis. Actually no, one only needs to accept the possibility that naturalistic theories can in principle be adequate.)

          • Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

            The claim of a supernatural creator is not “unfalsifiable”, in fact it is eminently falsifiable. If you can demonstrate empirically that life can come from non-life you have falsied the hypothesis.
            In fact, Science has no clue at all how life could begin naturalistically. All the highly touted theories are speculative and many scientists are abandoning the RNA World Theory as being untenable, and are going back to outer space to look for an origin of life. Been there, done that. Crick and Orgel proposed Directed Panspermia in 1973. I urge any of the serious readers here to look at John Horgan’s 2/28/11 article on Scientific American Online and to watch The video of Dr.Paul Davies address to the ASU Origins Conference.

            • Jesse Parrish
              Posted March 20, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

              “The claim of a supernatural creator is not “unfalsifiable”, in fact it is eminently falsifiable. If you can demonstrate empirically that life can come from non-life you have falsied the hypothesis.”

              This is what I was referring to earlier about you needing to show that life could not have formed through abiogenesis in principle, which you haven’t done. And if life could have had a naturalistic origin, that does not mean that there could not have been a supernatural one. That’s not a falsification.

              • Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

                Specified information and levels of funcitonal complexity beyond certain minimal levels are always the result of intelligent intervention, period. There are no exceptions. If you feel there are then you must demonstrate that fact empirically. I am predicting based on this principle that you will never find a plausible, empirically demonstrable naturalistic pathway from non-life to life. If you do, then my prediction has been falsified.
                I do not have to disprove the possibility of a naturalistic origin of life; since an undirected emergence of life would violate the what all human beings accept as fact: namely, that highly specified information and funcitonal complexity are the result of intelligecne, the burden of proof is on the one who asserts that it IS possible.

        • Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

          That highly specified information (drawings on cave walls, stone inscriptions, etc.)and certain levels of functional complexity (Armani suit, bicycle, calculator) only result from Intelligent purpose and intervention does not have to be proven, it is a given. (Please don’t forget that we are talking about Origin of Life, not Dar. Evolution, Darwinian Evolution is a result of the complexity of life, not the cause of it. There is no D.EVolution without a self replicating bacterium and it dazzlingly sophisticated genetic material already in existence. Please don’t tell me that it came from RNA, that is a totally unproven specualtive theory)
          I am being eminently reasonable by assuming that the bacterium was the result of intelligent design. If you wnat to assert otherwise the burden of proof is on you. I will not allow the special pleading of “All we are saying, is give Science a chance.” If you are having a hard time proving that life can come from non-life that is your problem not mine.

          Kevin, You are entirely correct in stating that this does not prove the God of the Torah and it does not mean that there is some reason you cannot eat pork. That is a completely separate issue and is not under discussion here. AS I stated in my book, NONSENSE OF A HIGH ORDER: THE CONFUSED AND ILLUSORY WORLD OF THE ATHEIST, The burden of proof is on the skeptic to prove that life came from non-life. The burden of proof is on me to demonstrate that the 10 commandments are the word of God.

      • Jesse Parrish
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        Oh and good Lord, we all realize that in everyday language `miracle’ is used to describe some apparently unlikely or strongly counter-intuitive event? I’m willing to bet that whoever is the source of this quotemine found an online archive of Crick and did a `ctrl+f’ search for `miracle’.

        • Jesse Parrish
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

          Hm… well, Googling `crick’ and `miracle’ does the trick, along with lots of other quick searches for the quote-hungry apologist. These also appear in that truncated form; I suspect that our Rabbi didn’t wear the foreman’s cap on this one.

          • Badger3k
            Posted March 10, 2011 at 11:22 am | Permalink

            Looking at his comment, and the reply, I would bet he gets his quotemines from the ID crowd, where such is exceedingly common. The blind leading the blind, so to speak.

            • Jesse Parrish
              Posted March 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

              I think so. I think his disgusting defense of this was a retrospective one.

              Lies beget lies.

            • Posted March 12, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

              Unfortunately he’s not the first – I attended a lecture given by a Lubavitcher rabbi in an undergraduate course in the sociology of religion years ago. In Q&A, out of curiousity, I asked him about evolution, etc. and he made reference, positively, to the Christian creationists.

    • Insightful Ape
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      You are quite wrong, rabbi, on a number of levels.
      1. RNA world is not the only model scientist are working on. Go check out “lost city” aka “alkali vents”.
      2. A big error often committed by creationists like you is to look at “simplest bacterium” an assume that is how life started. Life likely looked nothing like that at all. Any system of chemicals capable of self replication, no matter how flawed, would do. Then natural selection could take over.
      3. Complexity can arise as result of proper physical conditions with no need for an intelligent agent. Snow flakes, for example, may need detailed knowledge of geometry. However, in nature (or in the lab) they can appear when physical conditions are ready. The same can be said for crystals, or weather systems like hurricanes.
      4. I find this part of your commet really risible. “Suggesting we were seeded by aliens does not explain where it came from in the first place”. So where did your god come from in the first place, rabbi? And another question: if we attribute agency to aliens, at least that is plausible in that aliens, being of the material world, have known mechanisms of interacting with it. How does your supranatural god interact with our world, sir?
      5. Even if we concede to you all of the above, you still don’t get what you want. If you are right about all your assertions (for the sake of the argument) you get a deistic god that has been MIA for over 3 billion years. No parting of seas, no asnwering of prayers. Is that what you want us to believe?

    • What a maroon
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      [blockquote]Either they had made true contact with ET, OR someone on Earth was playing a collossal joke. Nobody who had any connection with reality would suggest there was some undirected naturalistic explanation.[/blockquote]
      ETs or humans who are subject to the same physical laws that constrain all matter and energy in the universe. In other words, a perfectly naturalistic cause, unless you consider us outside of nature.

      If the creator of life on Earth was similarly naturalistic, then all you’re doing is pushing the problem back a step.

      If the creator isn’t subject to those laws, then you’re making an extraordinary claim which requires extraordinary evidence.

      • What a maroon
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        And… blockquote fail.

    • Sajanas
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      Also, in case you’re curious, scientists using radio telescopes actually found a repetitive pulse coming from a variety of stars. While initially thinking they were the signals of an alien civilization, it quickly became apparent that they were just the signals of neutron stars which rotate at extreme speeds. The fantastic notions are exciting, but you have to be very careful to be sure they’re actually true and not just the illusion of design.

    • Steve Ruble
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      The burden of proof is on the one who asserts that it could result from naturalistic causes.

      Why? There are an essentially infinite number of things which are known to be the results of naturalistic causes, while there are exactly zero things whch are known to be the result of supernatural causes.

      Let’s say – for the sake of argument – we discover that the original replicators which kicked things off on earth were too unlikely to have formed by chance, and must have been designed by someone. That discovery wouldn’t begin to establish the existence of any supernatural forces. Instead, it would give us a new fact (there is extraterrestrial life!) and a new line of investigation: trying to figure out what kind of replicators could have been simple enough to have formed by chance, wherever and whenever the extraterrestrial life originated. That would actually be pretty cool.

      But no, it wouldn’t make a case for god, for the simple reason that the odds against an supernatural cause are everything ever observed to zero, against.

    • Rob
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      ne of the major points of NONSENSE OF A HIGH ORDER is that Darwinian Evolution is simply irrelevant to the issue of the existence or non-existence of God/Creator.

      You’re being incredibly disingenuous here. Is evolution irrelevant to the existence of *A* god? Yes.

      Is it irrelevant to the existence of the *Abrahamic* god? No. Specific claims have been made and shot down. That god is dead.

    • Daniel Schealler
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Rabbi

      Are you familiar with the work of Szostak labs?

      You’ve said that after two years of research you’ve dismissed the RNA world hypothesis… But you didn’t specify why, exactly.

      One of the commonest objections is that the RNA molecules on their own would be too fragile, or that they would find it hard to construct supporting structures that wouldn’t float away.

      One potential solution to this problem is that tiny spheres of lipid molecules can form spontaneously under the right conditions – and these tiny spheres (vesicles) can store RNA molecules.

      The spontaneous formation of these vesicles have been demonstrated in conditions consistent with our understanding of what the pre-biological earth would have been like.

      Check it out: It’s very cool.

      Formation of Protocell-like Vesicles in a Thermal Diffusion Column (Szostak Labs)
      Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6QYDdgP9eg
      PDF: http://genetics.mgh.harvard.edu/szostakweb/publications/Szostak_pdfs/Budin_et_al_JACS_2009.pdf

      • Posted March 10, 2011 at 3:34 am | Permalink

        “You’ve said that after two years of research you’ve dismissed the RNA world hypothesis… But you didn’t specify why, exactly.

        On the basis of quote mining and distortion.

        He has seen videos of Szostak,s work and dismisses them as “childish propaganda” that do not reflect Szostak’s views (see my comment no 52).

        Averick, is your designer DNA based? If not, what evidence is there of non DNA based designers?

      • Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

        DAniel,
        I haven’t dismissed the RNA World Theory, many scientists have. Two of the most prominent researchers, DR. Gerald Joyce and Dr. Michael Robertson in an article written less than a year ago stated categorically that there is as yet no “realistic” scenario for the RNA World theory and will remain so for the forseeable future. Dr.Robert Shapiro is not as polite, he simply ridiculed it as absurd. The youtube video is all speculative theories, none of the ideas discussed there are backed up by anything even remotely resembling conclusive evidence. If Jack Szostak had found out how life originated, he would have screamed it from the rooftops and would have won a Nobel Prize. There also would have been no need for the major conference on the origin of life at ASU last month where everyone admitted that origin of life is still a mystery.

        There are enormous chemical problems at every single step that is described in the cartoon on YOU TUBE. Read Prof. Michael Yaris’s book “Life in an RNA World” just recently published by Harvard University Press and you will get some idea from a non-believer where Origin of Life research is actually holding. I am sorry to say, but probably 95% of the people on this site are disturbingly ill informed on the subject. If a Senior writer for Scientific American, John Horgan, could put as the headline on his report about the ASU Origins Conference “Pssst, Dont’t tell the creationists, but scientists don’t have a clue how life began.” and you are watching cartoons on YOU TUBe and assuming them to be accurate something is wrong.

    • SLC
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Mr. Averick quotes several individuals which he claims support his position. This is the logical fallacy of assertion by authority. However, let’s play that game. In my previous comment, I cited Issac Newton, a man whose scientific achievements far exceed those cited by Mr. Averick combined. Issac Newton was as adamant in claiming the necessity of divine intercession for maintaining the stability of the solar system as Mr. Averick is in claiming the necessity of divine intercession for the origin of life. Laplace proved that there was no need of the god hypothesis for maintaining the stability of the solar system and I would be willing to bet that some later day Laplace will similarly prove that the god hypothesis in not required to explain the appearance of the first replicators.

    • Circe
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      I assume now that the orginal response was written by Dr. Jerry Coyne. DR. Coyne, greetings, the first thing I need to ask of a fellow Chicagoan is if you are a Cubs fan or Sox fan. Be careful how you answer, your credibility is at stake.

      Now that we’ve gotten the important questions out of the way, we can deal with the trivial issues like the existence of God.

      Thank you, Rabbi Moshe, for putting the question of existence of existence of deities in its right place. If only we could convince the other six billion people in the world about it, the world would be a much safer and nicer place.

    • Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      “Richard Dawkins categorically states that he “could not imagine” being an atheist before 1859.”
      That seems a remarkable failure of Prof. Dawkins’ imagination, because there were atheists before 1859, who were not fools. Just as we now do with abiogenesis, they would have said of speciation “I don’t know how it happened, but divine manipulation is not a satisfactory answer.”

      On the other hand, we shouldn’t mock pre-Darwinian theorists. Metaphysical speculations were trying to do what science now does, but without the benefit of the vast corpus of experimental evidence we now have.

      • Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        Didn’t Dawkins write that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually satisfied atheist? This makes sense, since theists then (as now) appealed to the complexity of life as evidence for God’s existence. With Darwin’s work, we had a pretty robust naturalistic theory to explain life’s complexity.

      • Diane G.
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        I’ve always felt the same way as Shuggy about that statement of Dawkins’s. Not only for the reasons stated but also because even before Darwin there were no doubt thinkers arriving at natural-selection-like conclusions.

      • GaryU
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

        I don’t see it as a failure in imagination, as much as resisting a leap of faith. Before Darwin, people did indeed discuss, scientifically, evolution. But without natural selection there was no known theory as to how it happened. None that explained pretty much everything, that is. After Darwin it was easy to say “Oh yes, now I see. Makes sense.” Before that, you could just as easily said “I’m not convinced. Although I still reject goddidit.”

      • Sajanas
        Posted March 10, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink

        I’m sure when the Universe is figured out, cosmologists and astrophysicists will say something very similar to Dawkins. And indeed, organisms are ‘designed’ by adaptation through natural selection, so it is good to be able to answer that question thoroughly, though I still think Epicurus managed with a few sentences to state the problem that ruins the God hypothesis forever 600 years before Jesus.

        • Hans
          Posted March 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          I am always amazed by the large range of ideas the ancient Greeks already discussed that seem very ‘ahead of their time.’ Although, of course, their conjectures weren’t always correct, it seems a great shame that it took such a long time for Western civilisation to re-evaluate their ideas and develop the modern scientific method.

          I suppose that does actually reflect very badly on how the Judeo-Christian religiosity has held back the progress of scientific thinking for centuries…

    • madamX
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Dear Rabbi Averick,
      The patterns in the genome (that can be quantified in information units) can maintain their low entropy through time. This is simply a consequence of the randomly varying information being filtered through selection for qualities that are good at building the bodies that replicate the information that built the body in the first place. This is paradoxical and hard to understand, so don’t worry if you can’t. However, one should worry about the parasitic distribution of misinformation.

    • 386sx
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      The only reasonable conclusion is that it is the result of intelligent intervention.

      So this is what passes for a not god-of-the gaps argument nowadays. (And, presumably, a not childish argument too.)

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 10, 2011 at 3:53 am | Permalink

      While this is nothing but the misrepresentations of science from creationists that have been explained many times over, I have a bad case of “there is something wrong on the intertoobes and we can all learn from it”. So here goes:

      The only reasonable conclusion is that it is the result of intelligent intervention.

      In my comment #54 I explain why anyone with a modicum of knowledge of statistical processes will come to the opposite conclusion by way of a testable model. Irrespective of the specific pathway taken (say, RNA world) we can easily see that abiogenesis is natural based on observations gathered the last decades.

      Since I already pointed out that a gap in knowledge doesn’t bear on the whether the claims of religion or not are factual, I will point out that the implied converse is also nonfactual. Science doesn’t imply atheism since it is a method, nor do you need science to be an atheist. It is true that you can soundly arrive at atheism from observations, but that could have gone the other way.

      that there is as yet no “realistic” nor “plausible” scenario for the RNA World theory.

      Too late, if not before now there is.

      A few weeks back an interesting paper showed data that an old standard hypothesis of chemistry is in fact wrong, the slowest reactions increases most rapidly in rate at higher temperatures and order of magnitudes more than the first systems studied. Reactions that are as slow as the age of Earth may have taken mere years when the Earth coalesced.

      The paper also pointed out that enthalpic catalysts (the kind that modern proteins are) would naturally be selected when Earth cooled down. The resulting metabolic network would have generated both the lipids and the nucleotides that can spontaneously form RNA protocells. It would also have been a functional system that RNA “parasites” could couple to along the lines shown by for example Shostak’s work.

      The characteristics of DNA that make it unmistakably the product of intelligence is the fact that it contains an encyclopedic amount of purely digitally encoded information. […] The code contained in DNA is “uncannily computer like.”

      You can realize this is wrong by gaining a modicum of knowledge of information theory.

      The data that contains most information is noise, since you have to specify each sample in full, no redundancy. “The characteristics of noise that make it unmistakably the product of intelligence is the fact that it contains an encyclopedic amount of purely digitally encoded information” doesn’t make much sense, now does it? Except for present company, of course, creationists are noise makers par excellence.

      Also you have to distinguish between the actual genetic code, information in the genome and functional knowledge in the genome.

      – The genetic code doesn’t contain much information, a few bits worth.

      – The genome contains a lot of information, but most is junk DNA noise.

      – The functional knowledge of the genome is coded by the genetic code, but the information it uses mostly lies in the environment. During development, the code doesn’t specify the number of molecules or cells, their placement or final function in detail. This massive amount of information will be a result of environmental interaction.

      Just as evolution can increase or decrease (parasites!) complexity, it can increase or decrease information in the genome. Variation such as mutation will most likely increase Kolmogorov information, the number of bits needed to specify it, by such processes as gene duplication and amino acid substitution.

      This process makes it possible for the Shannon information channeled from the environment under natural selection to decrease Kolmogorov information and let the genome gain functional knowledge of what works for the population in question. What could have been junk DNA noise will instead be a functional gene with some useful regularity.

      Similarly by fixating alleles the variation “noise” will go down when integrated over the population, another way the process of evolution decreases information to gain knowledge (function).

    • Posted March 10, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      Even as zealous a proponent of atheism/scientism as Richard Dawkins categorically states that he “could not imagine” being an atheist before 1859.

      Rabbi Moshe Averick
      Really?

      An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: “I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.” I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
      — Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (1986), page 6

      Rabbi, you have huge citing problems, don’t you? You do!

      • Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        Old Cola,

        Don’t have time to go into it here, but on the Aish.com site, I explain why Hume is irrelevant to the entire argument. The statement by Dawkins above is what someone could have said “following Hume”, Dawkins himself however, essentially rejects Hume’s position when he describes his conversation with who I assume was Daniel Dennet. What he writes above is an afterthought.

  43. Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Why should we be polite to this guy?
    He starts out claiming Crick was “illogical and unreasonable,” “lacking in intellectual integrity,” then throws out the blackjack strawman (and implies our arguments are “ridiculous.”
    Then, for his big finish, he again misrepresents the science and says “don’t be a crybaby.”
    I feel like I just sat down for an arm-wrestling contest, listened to the rules being explained, and then the whistle blew to start the match. And my opponent opens by punching me in the face. “Wait a minute, he gets to do THAT?”
    The rabbi doesn’t have to prove the existence of an all-powerful supernatural being, but science has to prove every chemical reaction that took place billions of years ago?
    To return to the blackjack motif, it appears the rabbi is trying to stack the deck. Which makes him a cheatin’ dog.

  44. Michael
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Another orthodox Jewish reader checking in here…

    Man you guys are rough!

    Yes, it’s ridiculous to try and prove the existence of God from gaps in scientific knowledge.

    I believe that there’s a God. That’s it. I can’t prove it, wouldn’t try.

    I also believe that science will eventually fill in most of the gaps in our understanding of how the universe evolved. I wish could be around for the whole show, but I think it’s gonna take a while longer than I’ve got here.

    The Torah (bible) is NOT a science book, wasn’t meant to be. It devotes a few dozen sentences, out of thousands, to explaining the “creation” of the world in a way that people living 3000 years ago could understand. Mostly it’s a sociological book about how to live in the world. It was very progressive in its time and was cleverly given the ability to updated for ours.

    I used to live in Edison, NJ. I’m sure than Deli isn’t Kosher, but man does that pastrami sandwich look good!

    • Kevin
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Please understand that we have no quarrel whatsoever with someone who wants to believe what he believes — as long as he doesn’t try to impose those beliefs on others.

      We do have problems with anyone of any faith using what are frankly tired, old, out-of-date, well-refuted, illogical, anti-rational arguments to try to defend a proposition based on scientific observations. Especially when it is quite clear that in this instance the rabbi … um … well … did not take enough science in high school.

    • Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it’s ridiculous to try and prove the existence of God from gaps in scientific knowledge.

      I believe that there’s a God. That’s it. I can’t prove it, wouldn’t try.

      Actually, I think that’s fair enough. I probably wouldn’t argue with your position unless you used it to justify an action that adversely affected me or mine.

      • Michael
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Don’t worry Ray, we have enough problems internally, with our own fanatics who are constantly trying to adversely affect me and mine, for me to bother you. 🙂

        • Diane G.
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

          Your outlook is very refreshing!

        • Ichthyic
          Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

          The Torah (bible) is NOT a science book, wasn’t meant to be.

          the question is:

          does it even inform you regarding your belief in God?

          if so, how, exactly, does it do that?

          and, that said, how does it inform you on God, but NOT on science, then?

          Where, exactly, does your belief in a God come from?

          How does it differ from wishful thinking?

    • Saikat Biswas
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      I believe that there’s a God. That’s it. I can’t prove it, wouldn’t try.

      Absolutely right. Faith is faith. Don’t prove it, don’t shove it.

    • Sajanas
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Ah, but WAS the Torah a science book when it was conceived? Even into the 1800s, people started their scientific explanations with what they learned in the Bible. One of the greatest defeats religion has ever suffered is that it had to move from being literal to being metaphorical. And it doesn’t seem terribly hard to imagine that many people would push for it to be returned to its status as literal truth if science were to be somehow removed.

      A question I asked above, if you don’t mind me asking, is just how as an Orthodox Jew do you pick and choose what rules are to be strictly followed and which ones are to be put down by the way side? Is it just something that has been agreed upon by rabbis over the centuries? All of my Jewish friends have been been pretty far into the reform branches, so I really don’t know terribly well how the rules in the Torah have been translated into the religion’s observances and strictures.

      • Michael
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        I wasn’t trying to make myself the spokesman for orthodox Judaism here. I’ll try to answer you as best as I can.

        I don’t think the Torah was ever meant to teach science, that’s why so little of it was devoted to those issues. In fact one of the early commentators on the Torah asks why, if the Torah is basically a law book, it even bothers to start with the creation narrative.

        There’s a difference between what people do and what they are supposed to do. Everyone, in every rule system, picks and chooses to some extent. Humans are just not capable of following so many rules. For us the goal is to try. Over the centuries Rabbis who have been given license, by dint of their intense study and understanding, to interpret and apply the laws have adapted them, within limits to each generation and society.

        • Sajanas
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          I appreciate the attempt… a lot of times, both IRL and on these boards, religious people I question attempt to pass the buck to some higher authority on questions of religion, which usually means they were never curious enough to find out what their religion actually says about certain issues. Its rough to be in a situation where you’re the soul defender of your religion, but I do get tired of people who use their religion to decide many important issues, but aren’t bothered to actually learn about it.

          I am also just desperately curious as to why the rule against eating pork has been maintained while the ones against stoning people to death for various things have gone away. Certainly morality has progressed a lot since the Torah was written, but does that very fact not undermine a little of the confidence in God’s law if it needs to be rejiggered every so often? Is it not just society’s law and morality then?

          Back to pork… I wonder if its just that learning from a young age that pork is ‘unclean’ makes one predisposed to dislike it, rather like how some people are disgusted by the thought of eating horse, dog, or cat because of the positive experiences they have had with those animals.

          • Michael
            Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

            There are basically two types of laws in the Torah. Those that make “sense” and those that that don’t but are basically there as a “test of faith”.

            So laws like not murdering, stealing, giving charity, etc. fall into the first category. While the dietary laws, for example, fall into the second. In the end we follow the laws in the second category as 1) acts of faith and 2) because we buy into the “system”.

            Over the centuries many have attempted to impute reasons for laws in the second category. The risk of doing so however is that if the “reason” no longer seems to apply then the law would seem unnecessary.

            I know this is a lot to swallow for a rationalist and believe it or not, I do consider myself one. However, I also think the “system” works pretty well.

            • Sajanas
              Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

              I think it makes sense, since the various second category laws do a good job of producing a distinct group, perhaps more so than if you were just to all go to the same services. I’ve often wondered if these sorts of commitment testing rules actually make a religion more likely to be successful than one that doesn’t require anything.

              My only problem with it is when those rules get enforced to the extent where you really lose the meaning to them. I’ve known Muslims who were pretty quick to pressure other Muslims to do all their prayers and the like, not because those rules were part of their cultural experience, but because being ‘good’ was equated completely with following all the rules. That sort of distinction varies a lot depending on the people in your community too, but I think its important for people to remember that not everyone is going to believe, or do it in the same way.

              • Michael
                Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

                We have a similar problem in orthodox Judaism. Many people lose sight of the fact that the laws in the first category definitely take precedence over those in the second. Essentially the laws in the first are laws between people whereas those in the second are between people and God. We have strong precedent that even God himself wants us to preference our fellow man over him when there’s a conflict. Some people, it seems, have lost this message.

          • Diane G.
            Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

            …the soul defender …

            Love the way this discussion brings out the best typos. 😀

        • Ichthyic
          Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

          Everyone, in every rule system, picks and chooses to some extent.

          this skirts around the problem.

          The problem really being, how one goes about making those choices.

          Should they be based on some sort of rational, deductive reasoning process?

          or should they be based on a belief in fairy tales and wishful thinking?

          it’s important, really.

          what we believe DOES affect the decisions we make. If it is acceptable to base one’s decisions on fantasy, it seems easy to me to see that inevitably, problems are bound to arise from that.

          If I say that leprechauns exist, and so we should tailor our tax laws to reflect the “fact” that obviously there will be people out there who manage to catch one and thus have a sudden windfall profit…

          you see where I’m going with this?

          it’s NOT just a matter of “harmless beliefs”, it’s a matter of maintaining and propagating the very idea that religion is a reliable belief structure to base decisions from, because it is somehow more tenable than pure fantasy.

          nobody, at any time, has ever given any reason for this to be the case.

          so, hard ass that I am, I will not let someone walk away with the defense that “my beliefs are my own”, because frankly, they aren’t.

          while functionally and practically less disturbing than one that takes active measures to ensure their unsupported beliefs are forcibly maintained in any given culture, it does not excuse one from the inherent problem I have outlined above.

          so, in short:

          good on ya for saying you can keep your fantasies to yourself.

          bad on ya for saying that they are anything BUT fantasies.

    • Rob
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      So, time for a little introspection. You say you can’t prove God. Why do you believe in it? There must be some reason.

      • Circe
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        There needn’t be. I “religiously” believe that a quantum computer with enough quantum memory would be built someday. It is a belief for which I have no proof, and it is something that does not affect my day-to-day life(although it has the potential to, as I work in Theoretical Computer Science). It is just a harmless belief, that’s all.

        • Dominic
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

          You should take a look at the essays in this book if you don’t know it…
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_We_Believe_But_Cannot_Prove

          • Circe
            Posted March 10, 2011 at 12:23 am | Permalink

            Looks interesting. Interestingly, and almost ironically, “belief without proof” is probably much more common among mathematicians than among natural scientists. Off the top of my head, here is a small list of statements which are “believed” to be true, based on intuition-based “evidence” on some kind or the other, but no proof:

            1) The complexity class P does not equal the complexity class NP. This is perhaps the most important mathematics problem with philosophical roots that remains unsolved.

            2) The Riemann hypothesis, and several related conjectures on the distribution of primes.

            3) In computer science, that randomization is not essential for the efficient solution for several problems. Posed as the relation between the complexity classes BPP and P.

            My small list clearly has a CS bias because of my CS background, but this is a reasonably widespread phenomenon. The redeeming feature is that mathematicians have often been proved right in the past: Fermat’s Last theorem is one of the most recent prime examples, and a recent “prime” example from CS would be the efficient test for prime numbers without using randomness.

            • Dan L.
              Posted March 10, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

              I don’t think you can strictly compare a mathematician’s belief in the truth of a mathematical hypothesis (given a certain set of premises) versus a scientist’s belief in the truth of a certain physical hypothesis. “2 + 2 = 4” is, from my perspective, a very different KIND of proposition from “the sky is blue.” I don’t need evidence for “2 + 2 = 4” — it’s truth is tautological given the construction of “2” and the definition of “+”. But no amount of assumptions will enable you to prove that “the sky is blue” — for that you need actual evidence that the sky is blue.

              So I guess I’m saying “P is not NP” is a different kind of belief than “visible light is EM radiation with wavelengths between appx. 350 angstroms and 700 angstroms.” The truth of the first depends only on the system of logical deduction in which the hypothesis is embedded, whereas the truth of the second hangs on mostly empirical considerations.

              Now, you can derive that physical fact about visible light if you start by assuming the validity of QED, but that will only tell you that “Assuming QED, visible light is…” To actually confirm that it’s true, you still need to do a few experiments.

              • Circe
                Posted March 10, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

                Although I mostly agree with you, the case of the the specific example of P vs NP is a bit different. P vs NP is a question about our universe in a very strong sense, which is the following. It is known that there can be “universes” in which P = NP, and also “universes” where P ≠ NP. These “universes” differ in terms of what problems are easily solvable by computing devices constructible in those universes. For example, there might be a “universe” whose physical laws imply that, say, the atomic number of every atomic nucleus is a prime number and it is always possible to efficiently construct the next higher atomic nucleus. In such a universe, solving primality would be a trivial problem. (Technically, this is phrased as “the universe has an oracle for primality”). Now as it turns out, primality is easy in any universe where Turing machines can be constructed. However, you could think of universes where physical laws create oracles for other, harder problems, in particular NP-complete ones. In this setting, it is known that there exist two different “oracles” call them A and B, such that if you have access only to A, then P= NP, and if you have access only to B then P ≠ NP. Thus, a “universe” in which only oracle A exists will have P = NP, and an universe where only oracle B exists will have P≠NP.

                We do not know if our “universe” has either or none of these oracles.

              • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
                Posted March 13, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink

                P # NP is indeed different. As Circe suggest complexity classes have physical tangible relations by way of physical systems (computers) characteristics. I recommend Scott Aaronsson’s paper on this problem and how it relates to observable physics.

                Bottom line: if P=NP, we have trouble explaining our observations.

      • Michael
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        I can’t prove a lot of the things I believe. I believe there was a big bang, that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon (I’m actually old enough to have watched it, but still I could have been staged), quantum mechanics. Yes, you might say that that these thing are all provable. Maybe God is provable, or will be. But like with so many other things I go on gut feelings and received wisdom from people I trust.

        Also, a little tongue in cheek, I’m in a win-win scenario. If there is a God, well I’m on the team, if not, well then no loss as the rules I’m following have provided me with a terrific life, amazing kids and wonderful sense of purpose.

        • Sal Bro
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

          Others of us prefer truth over winning.

          • Michael
            Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

            What’s “untrue” about the life I’m living?

            • Uncle Bob
              Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

              I think you know there is a notable difference between quantum mechanics and claims about a god. Quantum mechanics, whether you take it on faith or not, is testable. Your ignorance doesn’t change that.

              You can’t argue that about the god hypothesis. You know it has no evidence, is not testable, etc.

              This is slightly disingenuous anyway. Who basis their life decision on their beliefs of quantum mechanics? Ignoring the tiny minority, it isn’t comparable to the number of people that live as if their image of God is real.

              • Michael
                Posted March 10, 2011 at 12:42 am | Permalink

                I actually have an uncle Bob. 🙂

                Yes, you’re right and I commented down there somewhere that there is, of course, a difference. And I mentioned the idea that it’s not testable.

                I still think you’d have a tough time saying my belief that there is a God is “untrue”. You can no more prove that there isn’t a God than I can prove that there is one.

                I live my life based on, not just this belief but what I think is a pretty good system that works really well for hundreds of people that I know.

                God isn’t testable but the effect of the system based on the belief is. Check this out…

                http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/07/american-jews-lead-the-happiest-lives/

              • Circe
                Posted March 11, 2011 at 4:11 am | Permalink

                Michael:

                I still think you’d have a tough time saying my belief that there is a God is “untrue”. You can no more prove that there isn’t a God than I can prove that there is one.

                How “tough” it is depends upon the standards of proof employed. However, no matter what the standards you employ, I think you will agree that is no easier or harder for me to “prove” that your belief in God in “untrue”, than it is for you to “prove” that my belief in Santa Claus, or Lakshmi, or fairies, or mermaids or genies is “untrue”.

              • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
                Posted March 13, 2011 at 6:58 am | Permalink

                God isn’t testable but the effect of the system based on the belief is.

                That is a claim about testing that no one can back up.

                It is in fact in the very form of the belief it is supposed to test. Rhetorics will only take you so far (full circle).

                We can for example test that there is a monism of nature, that all processes are related by causality (say) in the same way that all species are related by evolution. And that there is no other action than natural in such causal systems. That throws out your alternate hypothesis, that there is a (non-acting or acting) outside agent.

                A better claim is that God isn’t believable, but that you believe in him anyway. No one can argue with that. 😀

        • Rob
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

          No loss? A bacon cheeseburger and a shake is damn good, and you can pry a combo fajitas out of my wife’s cold dead hands.

          And you’re pulling Pascal’s wager. Quetzalcoatl isn’t going to be pleased when you show up on his doorstep. Anubis is going to eat your heart for lunch.

          • Michael
            Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

            I wasn’t always orthodox. So I know what I’m “missing”.

            Besides there’s fake cheese and kosher bacon. So I can have my bacon cheeseburger and eat it too. 🙂

            • Rob
              Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

              So why did you become orthodox? That’s a pretty big lifestyle change on something that you can prove.

              • Michael
                Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

                Oy, such a long story. Maybe when I start my own blog. Suffice it to say it’s something I did 35 years and it worked out really well.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted March 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

              Hi Michael

              Kosher bacon ? I would never have imagined. I guess that’s using duck or turkey substitute

              I Googled a little & found an interesting & fun foodie blog you might enjoy: Kosher Bacon making the forbidden delicious

              Michael

        • Posted March 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

          You’re citing everyday things and scientific ideas as stuff that you accept as true. Just because some things are reasonable to accept without knowing The Truth™ doesn’t mean everything else is.

          You use inductive reasoning based on your own experiences to reason that stuff you’ve heard in the news and other sources is true because it turned out to be the case before. You can’t very well say you believe in an afterlife because someone you trust came back and said so.

          And it sounds like you’re making the “science is another kind of faith” argument. I’m a computer science/math guy here, so call me out for being off, but we don’t have “faith” in science, we have high confidence based on observations. Faith, I would say, is the antithesis of scientific reasoning. It is thinking something is absolutely true with out a reason for it. While science says hey my empirical evidence suggests my model of reality is right, but only maybe, it could be wrong.

          And Pascal’s wager? Really? Well, as an atheist, the rules I follow provided me with an amazing wife and career and a wonderful sense of purpose, all with knowing that those rules probably won’t be used as rationalization to suppress and kill others.

          • Michael
            Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

            Of course you’re right, science and faith are very different. My point in those examples was that most people treat science as faith since they themselves don’t do the analysis but depend on information from the world around them. However, the fact that they could do the research themselves definitely makes a quantitative difference between the two.

            Still there are things that we accept as true that are similar. Most people believe that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. There’s no YouTube video of that, and nobody has traveled back in time to witness it. Our “knowledge” is based on historical writings and received information from people we trust.

            Though it’s certainly not a “proof”, Jewish tradition is that our “revelation” was in front of about 3 million people. We have a pretty much continuous chain of writings and information transfer from generation to generation. Again, not a proof, but just something to raise the confidence level a little above random.

            I hope it’s clear that I’m definitely not saying that science is just another faith. Though there are many people who treat it that way (look no further than the climate change “religion” vs. the actual science) that’s not what science is about and anyone who compares science to religion really has no idea what science is!

            I was saying that my religion is the ONLY way to be a good person and have a great life and I certainly don’t believe that. But whether you like it or not, many of the “rules” you do follow come from religion.

            • Michael
              Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

              That should be I “wasn’t” in the last paragraph.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

              My point in those examples was that most people treat science as faith since they themselves don’t do the analysis but depend on information from the world around them.

              no, there is a grand difference between the very concept of religious faith, and the idea that people take things based on authority.

              mashing the two concepts together suggests you don’t actually understand either.

              it suggests that the reason you have faith in your god, is because someone you were told was an expert, told you to.

              the next obvious question would be:

              how do you know they are an expert on god?

              because they say so?

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted March 13, 2011 at 7:16 am | Permalink

              Our “knowledge” is based on historical writings and received information from people we trust.

              All experiments are like that.

              They are based on historical observation of outcomes (from mass-energy leaving the volume, not the mass-energy of the process itself). So writings in and of themselves are acceptable.

              They are received information from equipment we trust (from calibration or multiple observation). So people, which we can check and cross-correlate simultaneous writings are acceptable.

              [What makes historical science problematic is the absence of theories. Like astronomy it sees the tapestry of what was, but most “stars” (individuals) and “supernovas” (events) are one offs.

              Though there _is_ a certain correspondence between the Main Sequence of stars and the age sequence of humans. I assess it as a fixable problem.]

              Though it’s certainly not a “proof”, Jewish tradition is that our “revelation” was in front of about 3 million people.

              I’m not sure what you mean by “revelation”, if not the religious tradition itself. However, here we have historical evidence that it doesn’t check with what happened in the region. There was no egyptian slavery, no Joshua, et cetera.

        • Posted March 10, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

          Hi Michael,

          you may be in a win-win situation, but what sort of trouble are you deep in if there is a god and s/he is not the one you believe in?

          I suspect in that case, you are up that famous creek, sans canoe, never mind paddle!

          Just a thought.

          Cheers,
          Norm.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

          Yes, you might say that that these thing are all provable. Maybe God is provable, or will be. But like with so many other things I go on gut feelings and received wisdom from people I trust.

          You should read this:

          Childhood Origins of Adult
          Resistance to Science

          If you make decisions based on the source, instead of the content, aren’t you condemning yourself to being used?

    • Insightful Ape
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Michael, I have no intention of arguing. Whatever you believe is really none of my business.
      But you sure must realize that not all people of your faith are like you. I am really surpised indeed, that you identify yourself as orthodox, and yet you tell us that the Torah is not a science book. For starters, there are many, many orthodox Jews who think the world is 6000 years old.
      So Mike, as an outsider, what am I supposed to think? Shouldn’t I ask the question, of why would anyone follow a religion, where even the orthodox can’t agree on what seems a rather basic question: should their scripture be taken as a description of scientific and historical realities, or not?
      Let me finish by adding one thing: the Jewish people are among the nicest in this world, because unlike Muslims and Christians, they don’t proselytize. I wish everyone in this world kept his/her convictions (outside the realm of science) to himself/herself and did not try to “recruit”.

      • Michael
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        Damn it, if they don’t think like me then they’re out! 🙂

        Yes, of course I realize that there are orthodox Jews who take the creation narrative quite literally. What can I tell you? However, there are many, what we call, “modern” orthodox who believe as I do.

        As an outsider I’d like you to see that even among “orthodox” Jews there’s diversity of thought and opinion.

        You expect us to agree? C’mon you must have heard of the town that had 2 Jews and 3 synagogues. They each needed a synagogue that they DON’T go to!
        Seriously, the Talmud is just filled with arguing rabbis. Part of the fiber of our religion is very often to agree to disagree.

        Thanks for your kind words, but really how can such a dysfunctional family go out and ask others to join. It just wouldn’t be nice. 🙂

        • J
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

          I was under the impression that you couldn’t join Judaism, or at least not be accepted by the Orthodox community, that you inherit it through the maternal line. If that is the case (perhaps Michael could answer) then I don’t think Michael was stating his beliefs hoping to convert anyone

          • Michael
            Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

            Did someone say I was proselytizing? I missed it. (And I’m not!)

            Actually, J, Judaism does allow for conversion and once someone does convert they are welcomed among orthodox Jews. However, we don’t actively seek out converts. We have pity on you people, I mean really, who need the Tsoros of being a Jew! 🙂

            • Helen Wise
              Posted March 10, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

              When I was growing up and trying to sort out what I thought about religion, I knew that I wasn’t Christian, so I thought that I must be Jewish then. Time passed, and then I was not any of it, although I did stick my toes in the “spirituality” waters, anxious as I was not to exclude something before I gave it a decent chance.

              I would be a cultural Jew if could. They have the best food 🙂

      • Ichthyic
        Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

        Michael, I have no intention of arguing. Whatever you believe is really none of my business.

        actually, Michael brought his beliefs here to be examined.

        it IS our business to argue.

        else, what the hell is the point?

  45. helen
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    The US seems to work as a great homogenizer of religious opinions: Rabbi Averick certainly sounds American, but the problem is, does he sound Jewish?

  46. PoxyHowzes
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    To quote: “The extraordinarily heavy burden of proof is on you.”

    Well, of course, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” as it is said.

    Rabbi: Is your ‘god’ a “he” or a “she”? Please present YOUR evidence that proves it, one way or the other.

    Rabbi: is your ‘god’ omniscient? Please present your evidence that proves it.

    Rabbi: is your ‘god’ omni[anything]? Please present your evidence that proves it.

    Rabbi: did your ‘god’ use the scheme outlined in Genesis 1 or the scheme outlined in Genesis 2 to create ‘all that has been created?’ Please present your evidence that supports your choice, and then your evidence that proves whatever scheme you claim that your ‘god’ chose.

    Rabbi: Is or is not ‘Christ’ ‘Jesus’ the ‘Son of God’? Please present your evidence that proves, or even supports, your asseveration.

    Rabbi: Are Odin, Zeus, Hera, Fricka, Athena and others I could name in any way responsible for the creation of anything in heaven, hell, sheol, or earth? If not, Why Not? Please present your evidence.

    Rabbi: Can you meet the “extraordinarily heavy burden of proof” that you yourself claim is required? If not, Rabbi, why are you not an atheist?

    • Dominic
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    • Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Poxy Howzes,
      You are certainly asking all the right question. From the argument that was presented the only thing we know about the Creator is that he is there, he wanted life to be, and that he is not part of the physical world, he consists of neither matter, nor energy and he does not exist in time or space. Because of the dilemma of the infinitely regressing series of physical creators, he cannot be physical or material in any way. More than that we do not know. If we were to go further it would require a totally different approach.

      I have realized that some skeptics might be making the honest mistake of thinking that what I’ve presented here is a proof of the God of Mount Sinai and the God of the Exodus. I make no such claim. It is evidence for God the Creator. In my book, NONSENSE OF A HIGH ORDER: THE CONFUSED AND ILLUSORY WORLD OF THE ATHEIST (amazon and kindle, excuse the shameless self promotion) I state explicitly that the burden of proof is on the skeptic to prove that life can come from non-life. To prove that God spoke at Sinai, the burden of proof would be on me. I obviously believe that it is possible to present a compelling rational case for such a proposition. It is not the topic of my book, and it is not my purpose in writing on this website.

      But Poxy, If I did not feel there was any reasonable evidence for the God of ABraham and the God of the Exodus, I don’t think I would be an atheist, but I certainly would not be an orthodox Jew. Let’s first all agree that there is a supernatural creator, then we can go to the next step.

  47. Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    So let me get this right, Moshe Averick thinks it is more likely that A) a superbeing, who is so rare (perhaps unique) that we have no evidence it even exists, defied ALL ODDS in nature to create terrestrial life out of NOTHING than it is that B) a person could win blackjack 100 times in a row?

    Clearly, Averick has failed to think through the astoundingly large improbability of his own belief which makes the improbability of winning a hundred hands of blackjack in a row look minuscule.

    • Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Quite so.

      When Mr Averick (as do most other apologists for religion) expresses his incredulity toward natural explanations and ignores the infinitely more improbable nature of his own “theory”, I am always reminded of a passage from a certain holy book concerning motes and beams.

    • Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      A rat in a cage: Just as the existence of the suit is the evidence of the existence of the tailor, the highly sophisticated digitally encoded information in the DNA of the ximplest bacterium and it astounding level of functional complexity are the evidence for the intelligent being who constructed them. There is nothing inherently unlikely about the existence of a supernatural creator. There is no logical reason why he could not exist, it is just a question of does he or not? There are only two possibilities for the existence of life: A. Supernatural Creator B. naturalistic process. There is no evidence that life can come from non-life naturally. But why would you expect there to be. Life is unimaginably complex and sophisticated, why would you even think that it could happen itself?

  48. Fox
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Rabbi,

    “You are entitled to your faith in science, it is protected by the Constitution.”

    What a bizarre thing to say. Your implication seems to be that one is entitled to a faith in science *only* because of the Constitution.. As though without it, one would not be entitled to such a faith. You seem to be saying that were it not for the law.. what? You would somehow prevent people from holding beliefs contrary to your own? Do you actually believe that people do not have a natural right to disagree with you, but only one granted by law?

    Besides, which amendment mentions faith in science, exactly? Or are you referring to the amendment which also protects *your* right to believe in and practice your religion freely?

    It saddens me that you would pull the “you are a shame to your race” card on Jerry. Why are you so quick to disparage someone for using the brain that you believe God gave him to come to a different conclusion than you?

    “[Abiogenesis] without intelligent intervention is such an absurd notion that it can be rejected out of hand. If you want me to believe such a ridiculous idea then prove it… The extraordinarily heavy burden of proof is on you.”

    To prove one model of the origin of life of earth, yes, the burden is on those who propose that model. But what you fail to recognize is that even if scientists failed to provide sufficient evidence for every single hypothesis for the origin of life on earth, it would still not prove that “God did it.” Asserting that an invisible, intangible, sentient being with magical powers created life IS ANOTHER HYPOTHESIS – one which *also* requires evidence before we have any reason to believe it.

    Just because life is complex does not mean that it had to be created by an intelligent entity. The interior of geodes are complex, but we know exactly how they form, without divine intervention. The “evidence” for creationism basically amounts to word games and pointing to an old book which we know was written by ancient man. You argue under the assumption that if we can not satisfactorily explain something NOW, then the answer must be God.

    But there are lots of things we don’t know or aren’t certain about yet. We don’t know exactly what causes cancer – is it God? We have many hypotheses about SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), but it is still largely a mystery – is it God killing these infants? We don’t know what causes autism – again, God? For that matter, we still don’t know something as simple as how a cat purrs. Does that mean that it must be a supernatural process as well?

    It is hypocritical to claim a “God of the Gaps” when the gaps are positive, but then attribute negative ones to “nature.” And if you are one of those terrifying (but consistent) fundamentalists who believe that God also causes the evils of the world, then what good is accomplished by our wasting time looking for answers? You mock scientists who look for evidence of life’s origins, but I’m quite sure you don’t mock scientists who look for the cure for cancer. What is the difference? And if the answer is that “God gave us the tools to understand disease!” then — God gave us the tools to understand our own history as well! Why applaud inquiry into one and deride inquiry into the other?

    The burden of proof always rests on the one making the claim, so you are correct in saying that the burden is on those with the hypotheses for explaining life’s origins. But then there is a burden on you as well to demonstrate that your own hypothesis is true.. and I have yet to see any real evidence provided in support of that one.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      Rabbi Averick allows that the Constitution protects the right of people to have faith in science. How generous of him.

      That would be the 1st Amendment to the *American* Constitution he has in mind, I’m sure.

      First there was Jewish exceptionalism, what with being the Chosen People of the Creator of the whole universe. Then we get American exceptionalism that considers every other nation irrelevant unless it has something the US needs.

      Finally we combine them to get a Jewish American who finds himself the pinnacle at the top of the highest mountain. Who could fail to be impressed?

      • stvs
        Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

        No, 1st amendment applies to Canadians too because Canada doesn’t have a constitution. Look it up. You’re welcome.

        • Veronica Abbass
          Posted March 10, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

          stvs:

          As Fox (see above) says, “The burden of proof always rests on the one making the claim.”

          Canada doesn’t have a constitution? Really? Please provide proof that you are correct.

          • Tyro
            Posted March 10, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

            Well, yes and no. Canada wasn’t formed like the US was, we split off amicably from Britain and enshrined this legal separation in the British North American Acts which served as a de facto constitution. From the 1960s to 1982 we built the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which would most strongly resemble the US Constitution and in 1986 the Canadian Constitution Act was passed which formalized the list of documents and laws which would comprise Canadian constitutional law.

            So we do have constitutional law, we have a constitutional act, we and have a formalized document of rights and freedoms which is in some ways similar to the American constitution.

            There are links to all of these on Wikipedia if you want more info.

        • Posted March 10, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          Canada doesn’t have a constitution like that? 😉

        • Tyro
          Posted March 10, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink

          No, 1st amendment applies to Canadians too because Canada doesn’t have a constitution. Look it up. You’re welcome.

          That comma is throwing me off. Are you saying that the US Amendments apply to Canadians or are you saying that Canadians also have our own 1st Amendment?

          The first interpretation is laughable – no US law applies to Canadians, no matter if it’s in your constitution or not.

          Not sure about the second. Of course we don’t have the same amendments and we don’t even have the same rights. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that we have the freedom of religion but it’s much different than in the US. We have publicly subsidized religious schools, can openly teach religion in the classroom (indeed, 20 years ago, all schools in Quebec were Catholic), and there are official chaplain programs in our military.

          So we don’t have the US first amendment, we don’t have church-state separation and we certainly don’t follow US laws, but we do have freedom of religion (subject to some restrictions).

        • stvs
          Posted March 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

          Come on people! According to internetz rule #43, we’re free to bait indignant Canadians.

    • Posted March 14, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Dear Fox,
      1. It was Dr. Coyne who started the “shame to his race” card, he originally stated that Rabbi Jacobs made him ashamed to be a cultural Jew. For the life of me I don’t understand why it was necessary to say something like that.

      2. When I said, your “faith” is protected by the constitution is was tongue-in-cheek. Everyone admits that scientists have no clue how life began, (see John Horgan, Scientific American Online, 2/28/11), but for some odd reason we are supposed to “trust” that the men in white lab coats will find an answer. That is faith, it is not science. There is no guarantee at all that they will find an answer. Why won’t you admit that possibility?

      3. There are only two possiblities as to the origin of the first living bacterium and its genetic code. A. A supernatural creator (ultimately it cannot be a physical creator because that leads to an infinitely regressing series of creators. If it was created, ultimately there must be a creator outside of the physical universe) or B. Life from non-life in a natural process.

      Highly Specified information (inscriptions in stone, poetry, a shopping list, etc.) and certain levels of functional complexity (bicycle, calculator,sand castle, etc.) only result from Intelligent intervention. From time immemorial human beings have accepted and operated on this principle. Geodes are like crystals or snowflakes, they are not functionally complex, they don’t do anything. Besides,crystallization is a process that occurs automatically, as Dr. Paul DAvies has put it, “it is a thermodynamically downhill process” – protein assembly, on the other hand is a “thermodynamically uphill process” He compares it to the difference between a pile of bricks and a house. Just because you see a pile of bricks, you do not expect to see a house around the corner. They are two completely different processes. Microbiologist Michael Denton described the chasm between crystals and snowflakes and the simplest living system as being “as vast and absolute as it is possible to imagine.”

      If we received a radio transmission from the great spiral galzxy in morse code describing the chemical formula for the DNA in a fruit fly, that would be proof of life in outer space, even though we don’t know what kind of life, how they look, if we will ever meet them, etc. The highly specified information in the transmission itself is the incontravertable evidence for their existence. The bacterium and the DNA are themselves the incontravertable evidence for their Creator, even if we don’t understand exactly who he is.

      If you wish to assert that there is a natural explanation or have “faith” that science will find an answer, you are as entitled to that faith as any other believer. That does not make it science, though.

      In other words, if you want me to accept that the transmission from the great spiral galaxy is the result of undirected processes explainable by chemistry and physics that took place over 300 million years, the burden of proof is on you. The same goes for the bacterium.As I said before, there is nothing even remotely approaching conclusive evidence that life can come from non-life.
      Looking forward to your reply
      Moshe Averick

  49. Sastra
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    If someone was thrown out of a Las Vegas Casino for winning 100 hands of black jack in a row and then pleaded, “I know it seems miraculous that I won so many times by luck, but it’s not IMPOSSIBLE” we would laugh as such a ridiculous argument.

    There is something else wrong with this analogy aside from what’s already been mentioned, and I think the same problem lies behind the assertions of “specified complexity” etc. The conception of something being a “desirable target” has been loaded upfront into the fact that we have a result, an endpoint — and then we conclude that the result must have been a desired target. GIGO. You get out what was put in.

    All things being equal, every hand of cards is just as likely as any other hand of cards. The odds of any particular boring I’ll-fold is equal to the odds of a royal-flush-in-hearts. But we find a non-stop run of “winning” hands to be particularly unlikely because we know that there is a good reason someone would prefer those specific configurations of cards over random configurations of cards — and thus we suspect intervention. We made distinctions. We decided what “winning” consisted of.

    The rabbi is apparently starting from the assumption that the existence of life is a preferable state of affairs, compared to non-life. It’s equivalent to a winning hand, or getting lucky. It’s objectively desirable, the special sort of thing that would be “picked.” So when we get the signified result, we ought to suspect an intervention by an agent. Or, in this case, The Agent.

    But, technically speaking, nothing is “objectively desirable.” No result, however complicated, is distinguished from any other result in nature as being “special.” Desires require a subject. Goals require an agent. Specifications require a specifier. For life to be valuable requires a valuer.

    So who decides FIRST whether life is valuable? Not God. Us. We pick it out, consider it significant, think of it as lucky — from our perspective. It matters to us, because we matter to ourselves. We specify what is special: it isn’t special on its own.

    So now try taking our human evaluation that life is special and significant out of the equation. You can still calculate odds, sure — for and against other results. But you can’t then conclude intervention by an agent. There is no reason to intervene. Life isn’t a “winning hand” because the game isn’t being played any more. There’s no target specified in advance by someone wanting it to be there.

    I’m not sure, but I think this is a significant point. A “miracle” is only a miracle if someone is pleased. And the person who absolutely has to be pleased is ourselves … or we would not consider it a “miracle,” any more than a particular grain of sand on a particular place on a particular planet is a “miracle.”

    We’re creating a game where we can’t lose, because we know in advance that we’re already here — but still we manage to express surprise. Incredible. The special target we humans selected must have been a selected target before we selected it: therefore, God.

    • Rob
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      Shorter Sastra:

      a priori and a posteriori probability aren’t the same.

      It’s a concept a lot of people don’t get, especially those arguing for design and the strong anthropic principle.

    • jay
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      here’s a little more to it:

      There is a Occam condition in winning 100 hands. If a person wins 100 hands (or even 25 hands), the most rational conclusion is NOT that some invisible fairy creature is responsible (try arguing THAT in court), but knowing as we do that humans are prone to cheat, the obvious suspicion (and in line with Occam) is that some HUMAN interfered in the process.

      By contrast, losing 100 hands in a row does not likely involve human cheating, so no one is concerned.

      • Dan L.
        Posted March 10, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        Actually, odds for blackjack hover right around 50%. Losing 100 hands in a row is almost as improbable as winning 100 hands in a row.

        • Dan L.
          Posted March 10, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

          Unless you go out of your way to lose, but even then you’d expect to accidentally get a blackjack before 100 hands was up.

  50. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    M. Averick? Surely you are joking, Mr. Coyne!

  51. Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Averick was on Dawkins’ site saying that a video on Jack Szostak’s work was not endorsed by him and was childish propaganda. I produced a list of his publication and even Szostak’s wife commented saying it did reflect his views. On a later thread, he said that at a recent abiogenesis meeting, no one had heard of Szostak.
    Averick is someone to be exposed rather than engaged with http://richarddawkins.net/discussions/590746-jewish-fundamentalist-attempt-at-refuting-dawkins/comments?page=3#comment_592443

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Oh. A creationist troll then, or at least unaware of the science he attacks. Now I’m sorry I replied further down.

      • Posted March 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        He seems to specialise in quote mining, argument from authority, argument from incredulity, false dichotomy, ad hominem and repeating the same old stuff.

        • Badger3k
          Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

          In other words, the usual.

      • arkham
        Posted March 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

        In spite of the fact that I agree with you on everything else, don’t you think it’s kind of stupid to put an OM after your ‘nym when posting somewhere other than pharyngula?

        • arkham
          Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

          Sorry for going off topic.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted March 13, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink

          First, whether I do it or not is my business. Prompts the question, what is wrong with you as you asked as if the circumstances are relevant for you? You could have put this as a general topic, you know, no harm no foul.

          Second, as for “stupid”, define that in this context.

          From the other end of “stupid” (heh, I made a LOLZ), it is always seen as functional to mention merits if one wish.

          OM is a web award, hence assumedly functional here to the extent it is recognized; anecdotally it stimulates discussion. (Say, as this one; not the best example I haste to add.)

          On the contrary, if I put my MSc and PhD in here, I get less and/or contorted replies in some cases. Again anecdotally, and too old to easily dig up I’m afraid. I assume you will have to take my word for it.

    • Posted March 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      The video in question is the expression of one speculative theory after the other. It has nothing to do with established scientific fact. All Dr.Szostak’s wife said was that he did not believe in a Creator.
      ANyone who thinks that Szostak’s research has explained the Origin of Life simply is grossly misinformed. Recently at ASU , some of the top scientists in the world were discussing the “mystery” of the origin of life. If Szostak has solved the problem, what were they discussing at the conference? Why did John Horgan (a non-believer)write an analysis of the conference entitled, “PSSST DON’T TELL THE CREATIONISTS, BUT SCIENTISTS DON’T HAVE A CLUE HOW LIFE STARTED?” (Scientific American Online, 2/28/11)

  52. Gabrielle Guichard
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Is this also a miracle?
    “I know it seems miraculous that I did not win so many times out of bad luck, but it’s not impossible.”

  53. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    The extraordinarily heavy burden of proof is on you.

    It’s a long thread, so sorry if this has been debated already. As the post already made clear, a gap in knowledge doesn’t bear on the whether the claims of religion or not are factual. We know they are not, most of the jewish text describes history that never was.

    But let us discuss the science of abiogenesis, minding that it is about science and not atheism. Then we immediately see that there isn’t any extraordinary about finding natural pathways in nature, extraordinary evidence is needed just for creationism. Also we see that we don’t “prove” empirical facts and theories to diminishing uncertainty, but test their validity beyond reasonable doubt to mutually agreable certainty.

    That abiogenesis was natural can be tested by testing a natural model for it; if the model can’t be rejected we can’t reject that a natural process happened. We know now that life existed a mere 1 Gy after Earth’s birth (@ 3.5 Ga out of 4.5 Gy). The simplest possible model of repeated attempts of abiogenesis is a Poisson process. At an average normed delay of max ~ 0.2 (~1 Gy out of ~ 5), we find that we can test the process to 3 sigma.

    So in fact abiogenesis was natural. (And easy (!), as evidenced by its small delay.)

    FWIW, here is some arguments that doesn’t bear even on the science of abiogenesis:

    His caveat afterward is only a reflection on his own illogical and unreasonable committment to atheism.

    The simplest explanation is that a scientist discussing science makes an argument reflecting science and his commitment to science. When atheism is discussed, it is mentioned.

    If someone was thrown out of a Las Vegas Casino for winning 100 hands of black jack in a row and then pleaded, “I know it seems miraculous that I won so many times by luck, but it’s not IMPOSSIBLE” we would laugh as such a ridiculous argument.

    You can’t have it both ways.

    If we consider “a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions” as Crick does, we have abiogenesis. As I noted above that was quick and easy compared to Earth age.

    If you consider high odds, you have a creationist argument against everything from everyday protein folding (many, many conformations; one conformation active) to humans (many, many alleles; one combination is an individual).

    Creationists make the claim that in effect humans doesn’t exists and cells doesn’t work. Science begs to differ.

  54. Posted March 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    As I said on the earlier thread, I am glad that the Rabbi has come up with a flawless proof that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the world, pirates and all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster

  55. 386sx
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know who wrote the “response” to Rabbi Jacob’s article above, but if that is the best he can do then I am truly ashamed of “cultural Jews.”

    I don’t know who it is that doesn’t know who wrote the response, or to what the response was responding to, but I don’t see any article above. But if I did know, then I wouldn’t know what I know now. If only I knew then what I know now, I would be king of the world!!

  56. Cosmic Snark
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    “The specified info in the DNA of the simplest bacterium and the order of its functional complexity is unmatched (or at the far edges of) by human technology.The only reasonable conclusion is that it is the result of intelligent intervention.”

    So, if man can’t do something, then it necessarily follows that Goddidit? That is very weak and faulty reasoning, and is the kind of argument I see the least educated of creationists make in online discussion forums.

    Unfortunately, no matter how intelligent and sincere the apologist, the arguments for God always tend to boil down to the most naive and simplistic. Centuries of religious expounding upon the existence of God and the nature of the universe have resulted in little more than “Well, if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”

    I would think that it is far past time for the apologists to admit they simply have zero evidence for what they believe in. Because after thousands of years of trying by the apologists, the rest of us are all still waiting for the slightest bit of evidence to be presented. It gets annoying, to put it mildly, to keeping having these tired, trite explanations pushed at us as if they mean anything at all.

  57. Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Rabbi, you’ve just given me every reason I need to believe that leprechauns created the world and formed man out of holy gold. Now we are really getting somewhere.

    Hey folks, if you want a good laugh google “leprechaun apologetics” (in quotes).

    • Circe
      Posted March 10, 2011 at 12:41 am | Permalink

      One thing I never understood is how can someone think “God(dess) did it!” is a better explanation than a naturalistic one. For what it is worth “God(dess) did it!” is no explanation at all, since that ultimately begs the question “What created God(dess)?”

  58. Wanstronian
    Posted March 10, 2011 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    Just a sequence of logical fallacies and badly-conceived rebuttal. What else, from a Creationist? It’s not like they have any good arguments!

  59. Kirth Gersen
    Posted March 11, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    “The extraordinarily heavy burden of proof is on you.”

    I actually have no problem with this, so long as the obvious correlary (i.e., “Goddidit” carries an equally extraordinary burden of proof) is also applied. Then it’s just a matter of waiting and seeing who comes up with actual evidence. I know who my money is on!

    • Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Kirth, you don’t seem to realize that I don’t have to prove that specified information and functional complexity are the result of intelligent purpose and intervention. That is a given and we base our entire lives on this principle. IF you find even something as simple as a smiley face in the sand with the words “Hi Kirth” next to it, you assume without thinking twice that it is the result of intelligent purpose. The specified information in the DNA of the simplest bacterium is exponentially more sophisticated. You need o prove that such a thing could emerge from an undirected process

  60. Diane G.
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Don’t know about the rest of you commenters, but it’s beginning to sound like “don’t feed the troll” time to me…

  61. Hans
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Supposedly Moshe Averick gives his critics a chance to disprove his assertions by allowing comments to be posted at http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/The_Design_Argument_Answers_to_Atheists_Objections.html

    However, I find it suspicious that several posters have apparently selectively not been replied to. Posters that made astute observations that would have hurt his argument very badly. Some people’s comments were not published, others were repeatedly ignored.

    This was also noted by commentators of his article when Averick joined its discussion at The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. It quickly became evident that the commentators there were not going to take any pseudo-scientific creationist nonsense. When people started to call him on dodging the issues he thought it better to insult them then to provide answers, see: http://richarddawkins.net/discussions/590746-jewish-fundamentalist-attempt-at-refuting-dawkins/comments?page=1#

    Mr Averick, I have tried several times to post the comment below. Why do you dodge answering or posting people’s comments when they apply the same demands to you as you demand of scientists? Could it be that you are fully aware that your position is untenable? I’m still waiting for a reply to this comment:

    “Since you propose the Design Argument, the burden of proof is on YOU to show that claims you base your argument on are correct. You demand EMPIRICAL proof of you detractors, yet fail to provide such yourself. You’re talking about the complexity of the first life-form, but in reality you have no empirical knowledge of the first life-form. Instead you’re talking about the bacterial life that we do know about. If someone would look at the work of a Swiss watchmaker and say, “This sophisticated design couldn’t have been made in the stone age and therefore I am confident that stone age people had no way of telling time,” people would immediately realise how wrong that reasoning is, because it doesn’t take into account that for the telling of time people may have relied on something simpler in the past, like the shadow of an upright stick and later sun-dials and hour-glasses.

    Likewise, the simplest bacterium that you have knowledge of may have been preceded by still simpler self-replicators that you don’t know about. Ignoring that your bacterium may have had a previous history is like ignoring that before the Swiss wrist watch there may have been other ways of telling time. Instead of pointing at the Swiss watch, show us the first stick in the mud and then we can discuss whether it is more likely that the stick fell into the mud of its own accord or was planted there by design. Unless you can PROVE that the bacterium you talk about was definitely the FIRST self-replicating being in the entire universe and came into existence fully complex, you’re not really talking about the origin of life at all and your whole reasoning comes tumbling down like a house of cards.

    I expect that no proof will be forth-coming, just as Brian and M Mos have not received answers to their twice or more asked questions: (194, 208 & 247) “How do you know that a bacterium was the first self replicating entity?” and (205 & 231) “Does anyone have direct experience of the origin of life?”

    • Hans
      Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      The link I provided to the discussion on richarddawkins.net unfortunately goes to the first page. The specific comment where Averick insults the commentators of his article is found here:

      http://richarddawkins.net/discussions/590746-jewish-fundamentalist-attempt-at-refuting-dawkins/comments?page=5#comment_592787

      • Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        Hans,
        You are correct, I lost my cool on that one. I stopped responding to people on the Dawkins site, because of the vulgarities and childishness of many of the posts. If you would look through the full thread you would see what I was talking about.
        The fact is that I simply do not have enough time to respond to every comment, even some of the ones that are not just one line insults or people who think they are being very clever. There actually are some well thought out, reasoned responses that I simply do not have time to respond to.

        • Hans
          Posted March 16, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

          Mr Averick, although some people on that site were not behaving mature, they weren’t necessarily the same ones as that were asking those questions that needed to be answered. And it seems that you do not always talk in a mature way either when you say:

          “The notion that something that contains the amount of digitally encoded specified information and is as functionally complex as a bacterium could emerge through an undirected process without intelligent intervention is such an absurd notion that it can be rejected out of hand. If you want me to believe such a ridiculous idea then prove it. And don’t be a crybaby and ask for special consideration because we are unable to recover the evidence because of time factors. That is your problem, not mine. The extraordinarily heavy burden of proof is on you.”

          Are you really this uninformed about the real scientific position? And do you expect your audience to be so naive? You put up a straw-man idea that does not represent what biologists actually believe(1), you then falsely ridicule scientists by saying that it is ‘absurd’ and ‘ridiculous’ to ‘believe’ what they did not believe in the first place, and then you call people ‘crybaby’ if they can’t show the proof for something they never claimed! How can you even expect people to react maturely when you keep making such misrepresentations? Can you present even one true quote of an evolutionary biologist who genuinely believes that a bacteria just popped into existence out of nothing? A quote that was not just truncated after he expressed his wonder at the seemingly ‘miraculous’ but before he starts explaining his views that make clear that he believes no such thing as you are criticising? (1. I will elaborate on this in my next reply.)

          Misrepresentation seems to be the only way creationists can hope to mislead the uninformed. The finishing comment posted on Aish was a very ignorant one by John Pine, March 10, 2011 12:17 AM, that perfectly proves my point:

          “Cosmic absurdity
          I was browsing a web site that discussed a movie with a religious theme (that I was in with Martin Sheen a long time ago) called ‘Conflict’. I found a wonderful quotation which just about sums up Rabbi Moshe Avarick’s critics: ‘The belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason whatsoever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs. Makes perfect sense.”

          I think it’s an outrage that you and your cronies allow this post to stand as the final posted comment without accepting explanations about the vacuum. It makes a mockery of what scientists really believe and you know this full well. Have you ‘taught theology, spirituality and religious philosophy for nearly 30 years’ but have never thoroughly investigated the questions of ultimate origins of the cosmos? When cosmologists say that the universe appeared from a vacuum state, they are not saying that it came from nothing. That the vacuum is not ‘nothing’ can be readily verified by doing something as simple as looking it up at Wikipedia:

          “In quantum mechanics and quantum field theory, the vacuum is defined as the state (i.e. solution to the equations of the theory) with the lowest possible energy (the ground state of the Hilbert space). This is a state with no matter particles (hence the name), and also no photons, no gravitons, etc. As described above, this state is impossible to achieve experimentally. (Even if every matter particle could somehow be removed from a volume, it would be impossible to eliminate all the blackbody photons.)
          This hypothetical vacuum state often has interesting and complex properties. For example, it contains vacuum fluctuations (virtual particles that hop into and out of existence). It also, relatedly, has a finite energy, called vacuum energy. Vacuum fluctuations are an essential and ubiquitous part of quantum field theory. Some readily-apparent effects of vacuum fluctuations include the Casimir effect and Lamb shift.[22]
          There can be more than one possible vacuum state. The starting and ending of cosmological inflation is thought to have arisen from transitions between different vacuum states. For theories obtained by quantization of a classical theory, each stationary point of the energy in the configuration space gives rise to a single vacuum. String theory is believed to have a huge number of vacua – the so-called string theory landscape.”

          The links Wikipedia provides for the Casimir effect and Lamb shift show that these effects have been measured and thus prove that the vacuum is not empty. The source of some of this information is: Barrow, John D. (2000). The book of nothing : vacuums, voids, and the latest ideas about the origins of the universe (1st American ed.). New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-09-928845-1. OCLC 46600561

          You have done research all these years and not come across the fact that the vacuum is not ‘nothing?’ You do not know that this is a dishonest representation of the scientific position? I have posted a reply several times that the vacuum is not ‘nothing,’ but it becomes obvious that you have an agenda to unfairly make science look ridiculous when you refuse to post rebuttals to such a childish mischaracterisation of scientists. It comes as no surprise then that you also misrepresent abiogenesis.

    • Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

      Hans, I do not have time to reply to every single comment. There are close to 300 on this post. When I have spare time, I try to reply.

      I will respond to one of the points you made: “How do you know that the first bacterium was the first living organism, maybe it was preceeded by simpler replicators” (not an exact quote but close enough)

      One thing is certain, nobody has ever found evidence of any simpler living organism than a bacterium. These are the facts on the ground.

      I observe these facts and make a simple falsifiable prediction: There never were simpler living organisms, and there is no way for life to come from non-life in a naturalistic process. Everyone agrees that a fully formed bacterium could not pop out of the prebiotic swamp. I predict you will never find a plausible explanation for life to come from non-life. It is now your task to prove me wrong. I have put my theory in testable form, and it can be disproved. What is your falsifiable theory about origin of life, or do you plan to wait around for 50 years like Dr. Coyne suggested. I predict that 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, etc you still will not have an answer, and the same holds for 50 years from now.
      Get to work Hans!

      • Hans
        Posted March 16, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

        It is very clear to me that you are doing what all creationists do. All the quotes you use have already been used by other creationists and exposed as being quoted truncated and out of context in such a way as to say the opposite to the real view of the scientists. You misrepresent the work and the progress of scientists in order to set up a straw-man for you to knock down. A case in point:

        ‘One thing is certain, nobody has ever found evidence of any simpler living organism than a bacterium. These are the facts on the ground.’ – Duh, if you’re only prepared to accept your own definition of a bacterium as the simplest living organism, then anything a scientist will present as a simpler living thing you will dismiss out of hand. This is an argument from ignorance of your own making. When researching how non-life developed into complex life forms, it does not make sense to arbitrarily draw a line and dismiss everything that is below that line, a line that you draw based on what modern bacteria look like instead of the ancient life form. I tried to point that out to you by means of the illustration of the Swiss wrist watch, but you do not seem to want to understand this point. You keep setting up this false barrier between life and non-life, but who made you an authority on the origin of life? You purposely speak about a ‘living organism’ which you then equate with the first living bacteria, the composition of which you have no empirical knowledge as I and many, many others have already pointed out to you. People that are intimately familiar with these tricks of creationists have provided rebuttal upon rebuttal for their misrepresentations. At TalkOrigins.org there is an article entitled, “Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations.” Here, it is explicitly stated about such creationist’s false representation of the abiogenesis issue:

        “The entire premise is incorrect to start off with, because in modern abiogenesis theories the first “living things” would be MUCH SIMPLER, not even a protobacteria, or a preprotobacteria (what Oparin called a protobiont and Woese calls a progenote, but one or more simple molecules probably not more than 30-40 subunits long. These simple molecules then slowly evolved into more cooperative self-replicating systems, then finally into simple organisms.” … “The first “living things” could have been a single self replicating molecule, similar to the “self-replicating” peptide from the Ghadiri group, or the self replicating hexanucleotide, or possibly an RNA polymerase that acts on itself.”

        and:

        “Note that the real theory has a NUMBER of small steps, and in fact I’ve left out some steps (especially between the hypercycle-protobiont stage) for simplicity. Each step is associated with a SMALL increase in organisation and complexity, and the chemicals SLOWLY climb towards organism-hood, rather than making ONE big leap.
        Where the creationist idea that modern organisms form spontaneously comes from is not certain. The first modern abiogenesis formulation, the Oparin/Haldane hypothesis from the 20’s, starts with simple proteins/proteinoids developing slowly into cells. Even the ideas circulating in the 1850’s were not “spontaneous” theories. The nearest I can come to is Lamarck’s original ideas from 1803!
        Given that the creationists are criticising a theory over 150 years out of date, and held by NO modern evolutionary biologist, why go further? Because there are some fundamental problems in statistics and biochemistry that turn up in these mistaken “refutations.”

        All this has been explained over and over to creationists. It is clear why disingenuous creationists resort to being blind to the progress of science and instead present ideas that are 150 to 200 years out of date: the odds are vastly different if the first ‘living things were much simpler than they want them to be. If after all that time you devoted to these issues you still refuse to understand that the creationists are not adequately representing and addressing the MODERN theory of abiogenesis, I would have to conclude that you are either just not competent enough to address this issue on a scientific level or that you are deliberately being naive. Maybe it’s time for you to move on to other issues…

        To read about the statistical fallacies creationists commit, go to http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/abioprob.html

        PS. The capitals in my posts were for emphasis only, not to be interpreted as ‘shouting.’

        • Posted March 16, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

          Hans,

          I am quite aware that no atheist/materialist scientist believes that the first living organism was a bacterium. Of course they theorize that there were simpler steps along the way.

          The problem is that at this point in time it is a speculative theory with no conclusive evidence to back it up. The chasm between life and non-life is enormous. At this point no one knows how that chasm could have been crossed in a naturalistic process. Explaining the gap between life and non-life is fundamentally and ocnceptually different than explaining the process of Darwinian Evolution. You talk as if the solution is right around the corner. It is not. Scientists have run into a giant wall in their search to figure out how life came from non-life. If you think otherwise then all I can say is that you are misinformed. The difference between me and you is that you “believe” that science will triumph. I predict that this problem will never be solved because the notion itself is absurd. What is your falsifiable prediction? Dr. Coyne suggested I should wait 50 years and Science will certainly discover the answer. How long are you prepared to wait? 50 years, 100 years? That would mean that you are a man of unshakable faith.

          Accusations of quote mining are childish. I could accuse you of quote mining also. I could accuse you of quote mining that article you sent me. It does not get anywhere. If you think I’ve taken a quote out of context, look up the reference and explain why you think it is out of context.

  62. Posted March 16, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    To BILLY:

    I did not see any place on your comment to REPLY so I am replying here. For any type of full understanding of the paper I would have to check with the scientists I consult with, so offhand I do not know what you wanted me to get from this paper. One thing that seemed to be clear is that they started with a pre-existing virus and a pre-existing ecoli bacterium. If you tell me what I’m supposed to be looking for, it would make the investigative process much quicker. Did you see my other replies to you? For some reason no REPLY icon appears after your posts.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      It’s very simple – a random piece of DNA evolved a function – therefore, a putitive protogene needs nothing other than the ability to self replicate – it needs no designer.

      The fact you need to consult others tells me a lot about the fact you are not interested in honest inquiery – you are an apologist, not a seeker of truth

      • Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

        I’m kind of surprised by your comment. Consulting others is a sign that I am not seeking the truth? What an odd thing to say. It would seem to me to be just the opposite, If I refused to consult others it would mean that I’m not interested in the truth.
        Again, I will discuss the article with someone who has the scientific expertise to analyze the data. I can only understand it in a general way. I am not a scientist and don’t claim to be one. I don’t understand why you seem to be getting so frustrated and impatient. The worst that can happen is we remain in our respective positions without reaching any agreement. I saw that your friend Tyro lost patience and reverted to taunting and vulgarisms. Do you have to be somewhere in a hurry?

        As I said, I will have to consult with someone about the article, but your comments about a “non functional” DNA sequence evolving function already raises questions. “that it does not matter” that it is in a pre-existing organism seems out of kilter. If there is no pre-existing organism, where does the DNA come from? You’re already talking about a situation where fantastically complex molecular machinery is already in place. My guess is nothing at all would happen if that was not true. But as I said, I’ll check on it. It might take a few days.

        • Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:06 am | Permalink

          My comment is based on the fact that you have already shown a denialist/apologist mentality (eg Szostak).

          Why are you even here if you can’t hold a conversation about DNA.

          The fact that it occurs in an organism is irrelevant. It shows you don’t need a designer where there is a function – your whole argument then collapses. It has gained functional complexity naturally. So, on what basis do you claim that protogenes can not arise this way – we already know nucleotides will polymerise on their own.

          I’m still waiting on the details of the first bacterium.

          Why have a go at Tyro? Imagine someones constantly tells a geographer that the earth is flat and their only evidence is an ancient text. You point out the fallacies and provide evidence to the contrary, but they still say – “my book says it’s flat”. That’s how your arguements sound.

          • Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:12 am | Permalink

            What you don’t seem to realize Billy is that I could say the same thing about you. Name calling simply does not accomplish anything. To me all you arguments fall flat also, as far as I’m concerned you are grossly exaggerating the significance of any of these experiments, but I am prepared to discuss it step by step. I already told you that I need to ask someone with the scientific expertise about the details of the paper you referred me to. What is also apparent is that you make statements that are exponentially bolder than any origin of life researcher is prepared to make, Your statements are much bolder than anything that Dr. Coyne wrote. I will get back to you.

        • Tyro
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:32 am | Permalink

          If there is no pre-existing organism, where does the DNA come from?

          Q: DNA is a chemical molecule not something magic so where do chemical molecules come from, even complex ones?

          A: from simpler precursors which unite chemically.

          That seems like a very simple, obvious answer. Now we start getting into the interesting bit: what were the precursors? If it was RNA, was this used as a genetic molecule first? Now we ask how RNA got there and we have a similar answer except now we think that the first molecules arose without having any genetic function.

          It looked a lot like you ware finally asking the right questions until:

          You’re already talking about a situation where fantastically complex molecular machinery is already in place. My guess is nothing at all would happen if that was not true.

          Why would you say such a thing? The answers should be obvious with even a small amount of thought.

          Imagine what you think was the first organism. Think about whether it has DNA or RNA and how many bases, now imagine that same thing with one fewer bases. By your own definition, this is no longer an organism but clearly it’s just one simple chemical reaction away from becoming one.

          Now how did this proto-organism arise? How did it get a cell wall, genetic material and whatever enzymes you think were present? Chemistry, chemistry, chemistry.

          How can you get this far and still not know this answer?

          • Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

            You write as if this is some simple process. It is not a simple process at all. Dr. Coyne himself wrote that we may have to wait 50 more years for an answer. I don’t see that you acknowledge that the researcher’s themselves like Joyce and Robertson acknowledge that there is no realistic scenario for any of the events you are describing. Everything that has been done so far is almost 100% dependant on tighly controlled laboratory processes, in other words, exactly what would be missing in a naturalistic setting.

            • Tyro
              Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:38 am | Permalink

              You’re mistaking JC who is talking about learning the details of the actual path that eventually led to life and my reply which is just looking at the transitions and the general sweep. I also have the luxury of responding to your strawman.

              there is no realistic scenario for any of the events you are describing

              The event I described – adding single bases to DNA or RNA – is something that happens naturally all the time so I don’t have a clue what you could be thinking of when you say there’s no realistic scenario. We know there is one and we can observe it happening even today.

        • Tyro
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:36 am | Permalink

          BTW: those comments about you weren’t “vulgar”, and it’s telling that you didn’t respond to any of them. The things you say about “information” (and I put it in scare quotes because the things you say don’t resemble any form of information any researcher would recognize) are so wildly off base, so completely wrong that you could not have ever bothered to do even a cursory bit of research. You couldn’t possibly have read even the first paragraphs of the Wikipedia pages on information theory, and yet you talk as if you imagine yourself to be either an expert or know what the current state of the science is.

          I’ve tried to treat you with respect but you just respond with bad faith.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink

        Billy,

        Could you please send me the link to that article we were discussing , I cannot seem to find it on the Coyne website. You can send it offline if you want at RabbiMaverick@hotmail.com

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      That a random non functional piece of DNA sequence can evolve function – no designer required! It does not matter it is in a pre existing organism – where did the “information” come from?
      It was not designed!

      • Tyro
        Posted March 21, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        Our dear rabbi’s claims about information have convinced me that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about and worse, that he has no interest in learning.

        As but one example, using Shannon’s theory on information, any string of X bits has the greatest amount of information when it’s totally random so it’s not only trivial for naturalistic processes to create information but it is the default position. The rabbi doesn’t betray that he has the first clue about actual information theory yet he thumps the table, insisting he is an expert. Bah.

        Our good rabbi also talks about specified information and what everyone knows, but of course this term is essentially undefined and used only by a handful of Creationist/IDists. When he starts by talking about established facts and what everyone knows but can’t even provide a definition or an explanation, I suspect that even he knows how much crap he’s shovelling.

        Anyhoo, I suspect you know all of this and are just talking to help us so when he starts repeating himself like this, I’m thinking the game has run its course. Good luck man, don’t hurt yourself.

  63. Hans
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    Mr. Averick, before I answer your latest post, I would like to ask you about something that you as a rabbi should be qualified to answer.

    In Judaism and other monotheistic religions, there exists the claim of God’s unity. I recently read about the doctrine of Divine Simplicity. If my understanding of this is correct, God, by his very nature can not have any parts. I found that a quite extraordinary idea.

    Can you confirm whether this is correct, or what do people mean when they say that God is not complex but simple?

    • Posted March 18, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Here is how Maimonidies puts it:
      This God is one, he is not two or more than two, but one with a oneness that is not like any oneness that exists in this world. Not like the one as in “one type” that includes many individuals, not one like “one body” that is made up of many parts, but a oneness of which there is no other example in existence. If there were many gods, they would have to be material, because the separation and differences between them could only be a reflection of material differences, and if they are material, they and their power are by difinition limited and must eventually come to an end…”

      A being that is not composed of matter or energy and does not exist in time or space cannot have “parts”, there is nowhere for “parts” to exist and there is nothing of which they could be composed. There is obviously an aspect of this that is unexpressable. If that is helpful, let me know, if it needs more elaboration , let me know.

      • Posted March 18, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your explanation. I find this very fascinating and I know that Maimonides is one of your most respected sages, so his answer must carry a lot of weight in Judaism. If you don’t mind, I would like to explore this a bit further with you. Can you clarify the following:

        1. Maimonides, in referring to other gods, seems to be saying that it is impossible in principle for other beings than God to be immaterial. What then is the nature of angels in Judaism; I thought they too were were depicted as immaterial beings? So, were they created inside or outside the universe?

        2. It seems to me that the idea of God’s unity has a direct connection to the doctrine of omnipotence. Does that make sense? Would you agree that, if God had parts, he would then not be omnipotent?

        3. Am I right in supposing that the way Maimonides explains it is the view generally accepted by all religious Jews, or would there be denominations within Judaism that do believe God can have parts?

        4. Another thing I would like to ask you about, I have seen some people state: “God is not in the universe, the universe is in God.” I find this a strange statement, in view of the idea that God does not have parts. I can understand that people would not allow God to exist in the universe. (a.) I think you would agree that an omnipotent God could not himself be a part of something he created. (b.) On the other hand, would it be possible for God to be part of something he didn’t create? (c.) If the universe is indeed in God, that would imply that the world is a part of God, which seems to conflict with God’s unity. Would you agree that the idea of God’s unity is incompatible with the idea that the whole universe is part of God?

        • Posted March 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

          I appreciate your questions. Friday nite (the beginning of Shabbat) is rapidly approaching and the holiday of Purim starts Sat. Nite and ends Sunday nite. This is the one holiday where Jews drink to an excess so the earliest I could probably get back to you is Monday nite.

          However I will try to answer the first question at least before the short hiatus begins.

          Maimonidies does not say that other beings cannot be immaterial, he is saying that there cannot be more than one infinite God. Once you talk about “powers” that are multiple, in order to be separate from one another, they must be finite. If we are talking about religious worship or service, we are only interested in serving an infinite God.

          Malach (The hebrew word that is translated as “Angel”) which actually does not mean Angel (I have no idea what the word Angel actually means), it means a messenger.
          A malach is simply a spiritual force through which God effects causes in creation. Although they are immaterial, i.e. they do not exist in space, they are finite, meaning they exist in time. They had a beginning.

          The closest analogy to creation that we can understand is our own ability to dream or imagine. If I am dreaming of a tropical beach and suddenly the phone rings and I have to answer and discuss an important business issue, the tropical beach “dissapears.” where did it go? It simply ceased to be. Did it ever have any reality? It must have had some reality, because I “saw” it, I even “experienced” it to a certain degree. It was real. However, It was a different plane of reality than myself. It was a contingent reality, one that was utterly dependent upon my will to exist. AS soon as my will was withdrawn it had no existence anymore. It had no reality of its own.

          In a greater sense, this is our reality. We are a contingent reality, we exist because God “wills” us to exist. From the viewpoint of Jewish theology, God is the only actual reality that there is. God simply IS, we are CAUSED. Time, Space, Matter, Energy are creations.
          What was before the big bang?
          As physicist Paul Davies put it, there was no “before” the big bang, there was no time. There was no space, no matter, no energy. What was there? Nothing. We aren’t even able to understand what that means. The four letter hebrew name of God that appears in the Torah, is a particular configuration of the hebrew verb “to be”. It means “was, is , will be” – absolute existence. I would suggest that this is the reason why most people at one time in their lives feel that their life seems like a dream. They question reality itself. From a Jewish perspecitive the the explanation would be that the reason for these feelings is that at a certain level they are true. There is a level of reality much greater than our own. To a certain extent we are not “real”. This is really what it means when we say that the God is not in the world, but the world is in God. He is the absolute reality, than wills and “contains” our contingent reality.

          I’m sure you’ll have some more questions. As I said, I will try to answer the rest of the questions Monday night.
          God is not caused, He has actual existence.

      • Diane G.
        Posted March 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        Oh, do continue to elaborate on nothing!

        • Posted March 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

          Oh Diane, you are SO clever!

          • latsot
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

            Moshe Averick:

            Well it seems as though Diane has made a perfectly reasonable comment. I suspect she(?) is frustrated with your meaningless story-telling and that her sarcasm is entirely justified.

            Now let’s have a look at your snivelling reply. It…doesn’t cast you in the greatest light, does it, Moshe?

            “I know I am, what are you? No…wait….”

  64. latsot
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    “And PLEASE, no invective, name-calling, etc. You can certainly argue strongly against his views, but if we want him to reply, it would behoove us to be polite.”

    OK, we’ve seen his replies. Can we start with the invective and name-calling yet? Pulling his addled arguments apart is an entertaining – if hardly challenging – exercise, but can’t we finally be done flattering his already pampered and deranged ego?

    The guy has made it abundantly clear that he has nothing interesting to say. He’s barely contained his sneering contempt for those arguing with him and he’s slithered out of answering any and all criticisms.

    Isn’t it time we afforded Moshe Averick the respect he deserves?

    • Hans
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      I agree with you, Diane & others that Mr Averick has not presented anything resembling sound scientific evidence, and I think that this part of the discussion is going round in circles.

      However, I would like to see if the notion of a supernatural creator is even capable of being presented in a way that is logically consistent or not. Unless Mr Coyne objects, I would like to continue this part of the discussion with Mr. Averick.

      Mr. Averick, I have some questions on your first answer, but I would like to wait for your reply to the remaining part of my post. It would be good if you could refrain as much as possible from bringing your religious views into it and only refer to them when it is absolutely essential to your argument, e.g. if the particular philosophical reasoning on the existence of the creator is exclusive to Judaism as opposed to religion in general. Maybe you could limit your answers in a way that best highlights in a concise way the philosophical or logical issues of the argument for the existence of a creator.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        This thread is rapidly losing its appeal, and I’d suggest that if this is going to go on forever, like Averick’s refusal to accept evolution before bacteria, that you guys take the discussion offline. Seriously. We’ve reached a point of diminishing returns.

        • latsot
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

          Good idea. Everyone meet me offline for invective and name-calling!


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