The notorious and obstreperous Rabbi Moshe Averick, whose schtick is that life couldn’t have arisen by natural means, ergo God, has gone after me in a big way on the Jewish Algemeiner website, in a post with the lovely title, “Severe weather alert: Dr. Jerry Coyne—militant atheistic biologist—is blowing very hot air in Chicago.”
I have to laugh because his post is largely a defense of David Berlinski, that pompous purveyor of evolution denialism. Here’s a few lovely passages:
Anyone who has read Berlinski’s books or articles – whether you agree with him or not – knows that his writing is anything but awkward. Excuse me Jerry, but if Berlinski’s prose is awkward, then yours could only be described as quadriplegic. On the other hand, if Berlinski’s writing is the most exquisite bottle of French Bordeaux wine, yours is a watered-down quart bottle of Ripple. I’m sure an august institution like the University of Chicago has some wonderful creative writing courses…Just do it, Jerry.
And this, which makes me LOL:
Most revealing of all is Coyne’s confession that he has “trouble believing” that Berlinski is really an agnostic. I find this intriguing. Why is it difficult for Coyne to believe such a thing? As far as I’m concerned, the answer is obvious. Dr. Jerry Coyne is a fanatic. A fanatic is someone who is so emotionally and psychologically bound up with their beliefs, that they are incapable of considering another point of view. The sense of reality and emotional stability of the fanatic depend entirely on protecting their beliefs from any type of serious questioning or intellectual attack. Coyne is a fanatical atheist and a fanatical Darwinist. From Coyne’s psychological perspective, it is impossible for there to be flaws in evolutionary theory. It is impossible for any rational person to have doubts about evolutionary theory.
Obviously the good rabbi is completely ignorant of my critiques of modern evolutionary “dogma,” including my attacks on the shifting balance theory of evolution, on the idea that evolution must always proceed by the accumulation of many mutations of very small effect, and on the notion that morphological change nearly always involves changes in the regulatory regions of genes. I may be wrong in these criticisms, but nobody can accuse me of being a blinkered defender of all things evolutionary.
I don’t need defending here, because Averick is being completely eviscerated in the comments. And the funniest thing is this: Averick, who thinks he’s struck the Achilles heel of evolution by arguing that we know nothing about the origin of life (ergo Moses), went after Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak’s work on the origin of life by taking Szostak’s words out of context:
The argument that I put forth in my book, which Rabbi Jacobs also presented in his Huffington Post column, was that the simple reason why Origin of Life researchers are baffled in their attempts to find a naturalistic origin of life – as Noble Laureate Dr. Jack Szostak put it, “It is virtually impossible to imagine how a cell’s machines…could have formed spontaneously from non-living matter,” is because it is impossible for a cell’s machines to have formed spontaneously from non-living matter.
If you look in the comments, you’ll see one by Terri-Lynn McCormick, who happens to be Szostak’s wife. She gives Szostak’s full quote in context, which of course says something very different from what Averick implies, and winds up concluding:
I do not know if you are lying or are incapable of understanding the article, but I suspect the former. Make no mistake, this kind of misrepresentation is a lie. When you say someone has said something that supports your argument when you know that the whole of his words undermine it, you are lying about what the person said. Civil discourse begins with honest engagement.
Averick just babbles in reply. Like many creationists, he likes to take quotes out of contexts to make it seem as if scientists have deep doubts about evolution—doubts that we suppress to present a false front. Averick is a liar, and makes me ashamed to be a (cultural) Jew. He needs to remember the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”