Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rabbi Slifkin's Astonishing Admissions

Pursuant to the Blog Entry entitled "Excuses are not Reasons" (October 3, 2010), I made several comments delineating what I thought was my position on the matter of the Betech-Slifkin debate issue. After reading Rabbi Slifkin’s current Blog entry (Monday, October 4, 2010 – Exposing "Scientific" Anti-Evolutionists), I have come to realize that my previous understanding was entirely incomplete.

Rabbi Slifkin writes as follows:

Dr. Betech wanted to debate the scientific merits of evolution with me. I refused, for several reasons. One reason was that it really doesn't make a difference to my book if evolution is true or not. While I personally am convinced that the evidence for common ancestry is overwhelming, I don't understand how evolutionary mechanisms work and I have many questions on it. But what difference does it make? I haven't studied it all that much and I'm not a biologist. More fundamentally, the fact is that it does NOT contradict Torah, and many people will believe in it regardless or what either I or Dr. Betech say. So it doesn't make a difference what I believe about evolution; what matters is whether it contradicts Torah - and there is no reason to believe that it does.

I am literally stunned! I don’t even know where to begin. Let's disect this paragraph piece by piece.

First of all, Rabbi Slifkin claims that it makes no difference to his book whether evolution is true or not. This statement is quite literally astounding. Anyone reading Rabbi Slifkin’s books on this topic can easily see the falsehood of this assertion. In his book The Challenge of Creation, Rabbi Slifkin introduces us to the raison d’ĂȘtre of his book. He writes as follows: (my emphases)

This book was written for those who are committed to the tenets of Judaism, but also respect the modern scientific enterprise and are aware of its findings, and who are therefore disturbed by the challenges that are raised for their understanding of Torah.

That pretty much says it all. His book was written expressly for the informed individual. It was written for those who are aware of the scientific findings and therefore find their understanding of the Torah problematic. In classic revisionist style Rabbi Slifkin now wants us to believe that the truth or falsehood of Evolution makes no difference to his book.

Second, Rabbi Slifkin writes as follows:

While I personally am convinced that the evidence for common ancestry is overwhelming, I don't understand how evolutionary mechanisms work and I have many questions on it. But what difference does it make? I haven't studied it all that much and I'm not a biologist.

This paragraph is even more astounding than the first! I feel like Rod Serling just catapulted me into one of his classic episodes of the Twilight Zone. If I read Rabbi Slifkin correctly, he just finished admitting that

a) he doesn’t understand how evolutionary mechanisms work

b) he actually questions their validity

c) he hasn’t studied evolutionary mechanisms much.

I apologize for repeating myself so much but this is astonishing! Rabbi Slifkin hasn’t even studied Evolutionary mechanisms yet he feels justified in writing a long and complex book supposedly addressing the "challenges" of those who are "aware of [the scientific] findings". Is it me or does this strike anyone as weird?

For the uninitiated, here’s a 30 second history class in Evolution. Although Evolution really has its roots in ancient Grecian naturalism, the current permutation of the theory was first brought to the attention of the scientific world in the nineteenth century by the French biologist Jean Baptiste Lamarck in his book Zoological Philosophy (1809). Lamarck believed that living things possessed an internal energy, a "vital force" that drove them to evolve toward greater complexity. Unfortunately this didn’t take too well with the scientific community. Then Darwin came along. In 1859 he published his book On the Origin of Species which provided a scientifically viable mechanism for the evolution of the species. His book was an instant bestseller and the rest is history.

Darwinism is all about mechanisms! If you don’t have a mechanism, you don’t have Evolution! Sure, morphological similarities and the clear presence of a nested hierarchal system of biological classification might suggest (to the materialist) the idea of a common ancestor, a "Tree" that branched out into the diversity of life we see today. But without a viable scientific mechanism for the supposed phenomenon of biological speciation, there isn’t even a single self-respecting evolutionist in the whole entire world who would claim that Evolution satisfies the technical parameters of a scientific theory, much less a fact. How can Rabbi Slifkin presume to reconcile the supposed loggerhead of Evolution and Torah when he, admittedly, knows little about evolutionary mechanisms? Indeed, he even questions the validity of known evolutionary mechanisms.

Third of all, Rabbi Slifkin writes as follows:

More fundamentally, the fact is that it does NOT contradict Torah,

Sure it does. The Torah says that biological species arose suddenly, all at once, via meta-natural fiat. I’m sure I read that somewhere in the Bible. Rabbi Slifkin may feel that his approach of redefining the verses of maaseh bereishis is intellectually satisfying but even he would admit that if we don’t reinterpret the verses to refer to a spiritual infrastructure (or some such other fairy tale), the Torah would indeed contradict Evolution.

Fourth of all, Rabbi Slifkin writes:

and many people will believe in it regardless or what either I or Dr. Betech say.

This amounts to special pleading. In his books Rabbi Slifkin ostensibly sets out to reconcile a very real issue between science and Torah but now, in order to maintain the relevance of his writings in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, Rabbi Slifkin appeals to the ignorance of the masses as his ultimate reason for publishing his book. I don’t buy it. (Actually I did buy his book(s). And actually I freely admit that that Rabbi Slifkin is a talented and engaging writer who happens to possess a substantial amount of zoological knowledge. He certainly knows more than I do about animals…)  

I only managed to treat the opening paragraph of Rabbi Slifkin’s most recent post. Tomorrow morning I intend, Please G-d, on finishing my treatment of Rabbi Slifkin's post in a follow up post entitled "Irrelevencies".

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