Monday, December 6, 2010

Logical Consistency versus Rationality

Pursuant to our most recent blog entry, Rabbi Slifkin took to the comment section to protest what he considers a mischaracterization of his position on our part. In fact, he feels that our description more aptly fits the parameters of this Blog’s own position! This blog entry is dedicated to responding to his claims while simultaneously clarifying both his position and our own.

Rabbi Slifkin maintains that there is sufficient evidence to assume that the world is very old and that life evolved over a period of billions of years. He admits that he is not sure precisely which mechanism could be responsible for such a feat but nonetheless he is convinced that it definitely did happen. Consequently, he is forced to reinterpret the verses in Genesis and reject our universal mesorah. This alone has been a cause of much concern amongst his critics but is not the topic of this blog entry and will thus be overlooked for the time being.

Our most recent accusation against Rabbi Slifkin’s view is that it compromises our ability to utilize a study of the beriah as a means of becoming aware of Hashem’s presence. In response to this accusation, Rabbi Slifkin makes a vigorous counter-argument that is designed not only to defend his position but to simultaneously condemn our position. His argument goes as follows. Since we would admit that one of the fundamental imperatives of Jewish theology is to see Hashem’s hand in the events of our lives and in the events of history, evolution is no different. If evolution did indeed occur, we would simply attribute it to Divine Providence working in the background in exactly the same way we would attribute the events of our lives to Divine Providence. Thus, claims Rabbi Slifkin, by maintaining that evolution compromises our ability to see Hashem, we are in effect countermanding the well-established Jewish principle of Hashgacha.

On the surface his argument might seem compelling but just a little contemplation reveals the fallacy of his position. As explained in the comment section of the aforementioned blog, Rabbi Slifkin is improperly conflating two separate concepts. A study of the beriah is conducted for the purpose of establishing the presence of the Creator whereas the concept of Hashgacha enjoins us to impute the already established reality of a Creator to the daily events of our lives or to historical events, something we would not necessarily have done had we not first established His existence (either from the beriah or from the Torah).

In response to this, Rabbi Slifkin claimed that he too uses the beriah as a means of establishing the presence of the Creator, just not through the phenomena of the universe. Rather, he sees God in the fortuitousness of the laws of nature (e.g. fine-tuning coincidences)

While acknowledging Rabbi Slifkin’s claim, we maintain that such a position is wholly untenable. The phenomena of the universe also require a healthy measure of "fortuitousness", especially life. What principled distinction can Rabbi Slifkin make between fine tuning coincidences (i.e. laws of nature) and random chance mutations of the gene (i.e. evolution)? None. Thus, his claim is self-contradictory and therefore incoherent.

While contemplating all this, I suddenly realized precisely what bothers people about our rejection of Rabbi Slifkin’s view, including perhaps, Rabbi Slifkin himself. Notwithstanding all of our argumentation above, the simple fact remains that there are two possible explanations for life: either it was specially created or it evolved via naturalistic causes. Even if the latter is statistically improbable, so what? Do we really need to make such a big deal of all this? After all, we can still see Hashem in the beriah via our own self-mandated theology (i.e. hashgacha). As such, evolution is consistent with our theology! Who says we have to see Him directly from a study of the beriah??

Personally, I believe our remarks about the importance of seeing Hashem directly from the beriah should convince people of the major theological shortcomings inherent in Rabbi Slifkin’s views but since there seems to be some resistance to this critique, I’d like to approach this from an entirely different angle. Rabbi Slifkin and his chasidim consider themselves "rationalists" and therefore the following argument appeals to the rational element in man.

Consider the following. You are sleeping in the top floor of your home when suddenly you are awakened by the sound of rumbling in the attic. You try and fall back asleep but the rumbling continues. Your wife is also awakened and both of you stare at each other quizzically. She speaks first.

"I think the beavers hanging out in our backyard finally figured out how to make a nest in our attic. There’s been a rash of beaver nests in this neighborhood. We need to call the ASPCA tomorrow. They’ll know how to get rid of them"

Satisfied with her explanation, your wife closes her eyes and tries to get back to sleep. Not to be outdone, you decide to advance a theory of your own.

"That’s not it", you tell your wife. "I think I know what’s going on. Recently, a family of three foot tall green goblins moved into our attic. Occasionally they get bored so they entertain themselves by bowling. The rumbling noises we are hearing tonight is the sound of three foot tall green goblins bowling".

Now, is your explanation illogical? Absolutely not. The noise that three foot tall green goblins would make bowling is logically consistent with the available empirical evidence i.e. the sounds you are hearing. But is it rational? Does it appeal to our native human intellect? I think that anyone reading this would most likely reply in the negative. (If you reply in the positive, this Blog has nothing significant to impart to you and you are wasting your time reading it).

The same applies to Rabbi Slifkin’s view. Yes, it is logically consistent with our theology of hashgacha. But is his view rational? Do we need hashgacha to see Hashem in the phenomena of life? Isn’t life so amazingly complex, so amazingly purposeful? Doesn’t it scream out the presence of a designer no less than the laws of nature Rabbi Slifkin is so fond of quoting? We have a choice. Either we can align the phenomena of life with the theology of hashgacha or we can align it with the theology of ma’aseh bereishis i.e. special creation. The rational choice is clear and thus Rabbi Slifkin’s choice is simply irrational. Since he considers himself a rationalist, it would behoove him to reconsider his views on ma’aseh bereishis.

113 comments:

  1. What principled distinction can Rabbi Slifkin make between fine tuning coincidences (i.e. laws of nature) and random chance mutations of the gene (i.e. evolution)? None. Thus, his claim is self-contradictory and therefore incoherent.

    Let's suppose that was you said is true. All it would mean is that my acceptance of evolution as an adequate explanation is irrational. But, at this point, you have already conceded that one can, via the laws of nature, become aware of Hashem’s presence as Borei. So all these posts about "what's wrong with Rabbi Slifkin's theology" are now incorrect.

    As for your claim that I am being self-contradictory and incoherent - I already addressed this in my comments to your previous post, but you apparently ignored what I wrote. As you know, many scientists disagree with this statistical improbability that you claim. Personally I have never taken any sides on it. If it's statistically improbable, then, gezunte heit, we have more evidence for a Designer. And if it's not, then it doesn't matter, since the laws of nature are enough on their own.

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  2. I would like to comment on your example. The problem with it is that we know that beavers are common while goblins are not. Therefore, it is ridiculous to suggest that there are goblins in the attic. However, if we don't know about the existence of goblins or beavers, then both explanations sound equally plausible, since we have no actual evidence as to which theory is correct.

    I would just like to point out that this is a corrupted example from Sober's basic principles of philosophy (which I used in college for my Philosophy of Science class). The example was in regards to logical fallacies, specifically the "only game in town" fallacy. The example is as follows:

    Two people are in a house, and hear a rumbling noise. Neither person has ever heard thunder before, and don't recognize it. The first person says, "I think that noise is caused by gremlins bowling in the attic." The second person says, "That's ridiculous, gremlins don't exist." The first person replies, "Do you have an alternative explanation?" The second person thinks and says, "No, I don't know what that noise is." The first person triumphantly concludes, "See, that proves that the noise was caused by gremlins bowling in the attic!"

    The interesting application of this example to evolution/intelligent design is as follows: Evolutionists will often claim that evolution has been proven, and when confronted with the difficulties will respond, "Well, what other (naturalistic) theory is there?" IDers will say, "We've disproven evolution, therefore ID must be true since we don't know of anything that could design life in this manner." Both arguments rely on the "Only game in town" fallacy, since they assume that because there are no valid competing theories, theirs must be true.

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  3. Dear SC
    let me ask you something if you are walking in the desert and you see a beautiful watch, you think to yourself “how wise must the creator of this watch be!” you walk further along and you see a powerful car and again you wonder at the wisdom of its creator, as you walk through the desert you see more and more wondrous creations, until you bump into 6 incredible machines, you see these six machines working in beautiful harmony producing all those wondrous creations in the desert. You are humbled by the sheer brilliance of the symphony. You turn back and look at the watch that you saw first, you decide to open the watch to see how it works. You realize that every part of the watch is absolute astounding

    Would you think to say “Now that I know how this watch was made it is really not that amazing, besides when I looked at the process that the six machines used to create it, it looked rather random.”
    Or would you marvel at the intricacies of the watch with even more wonder you could say “How awesome is the creator of this incredible watch who needed to create just a few machines in order for this desert to come alive with wisdom.

    I am sorry for the bad example, I am not so good at putting thoughts down on paper.
    But I am trying to make an important point. I think that if one has a profound paradigm shift, then understanding the universe with the acceptance of creation science can actually enhance one’s perception of Hashem. Yes it is subtle but I have come to understand that it is not that one will be impressed only by the laws of science one will still, and perhaps even more so, marvel at everything in the universe to quote Rav Hirsch
    “Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus and one single law of “adaptation and heredity” in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today”

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  4. Dear SC
    let me ask you something if you are walking in the desert and you see a beautiful watch, you think to yourself “how wise must the creator of this watch be!” you walk further along and you see a powerful car and again you wonder at the wisdom of its creator, as you walk through the desert you see more and more wondrous creations, until you bump into 6 incredible machines, you see these six machines working in beautiful harmony producing all those wondrous creations in the desert. You are humbled by the sheer brilliance of the symphony. You turn back and look at the watch that you saw first, you decide to open the watch to see how t works. You realize that every part of the watch is absolute astounding

    Would you think to say “Now that I know how this watch was made it is really not that amazing, besides when I looked at the process that the six machines used to create it, it looked rather random.”
    Or would you marvel at the intricacies of the watch with even more wonder you could say “How awesome is the creator of this incredible watch who needed to create just a few machines in order for this desert to come alive with wisdom.

    I am sorry for the bad example, I am not so good at putting thoughts down on paper.
    But I am trying to make an important point. I think that if one has a profound paradigm shift, then understanding the universe with the acceptance of creation science can actually enhance one’s perception of Hashem. Yes it is subtle but I have come to understand that it is not that one will be impressed only by the laws of science one will still, and perhaps even more so, marvel at everything in the universe to quote Rav Hirsch
    “Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus and one single law of “adaptation and heredity” in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today”

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  5. Natan Slifkin –

    Let's suppose that was you said is true. All it would mean is that my acceptance of evolution as an adequate explanation is irrational. But, at this point, you have already conceded that one can, via the laws of nature, become aware of Hashem’s presence as Borei. So all these posts about "what's wrong with Rabbi Slifkin's theology" are now incorrect.

    It’s frustrating when I keep on addressing an issue and somehow you don’t get it. The only concession I made is that theoretically the LON can lead to an awareness of the Borei. I can use them, but you can’t. I’ll just cut and paste what I explained in a comment in the previous post.

    Quote - Because you’re speaking out of two sides of your mouth. On the one hand, you claim that fortuitousness is enough to see design (LON) and from the other side you claim that it is not enough (evolution). In and of themselves, the LON are enough to demonstrate the presence of a Creator to the rational mind. But you, Rabbi Slfkin, cannot ta’anah that. You’ve already proclaimed that when it comes to the fortuitous nature of life, you are willing to forgo the highly unlikely nature of their composition and adopt a materialistic view. So claiming that the fortuitousness of LON are suddenly sufficient to attest to God is arbitrary, contradicts your view re evolution and is thus irrational. The problem is not the LON per se. I already told you that your Chapter 2 is an excellent presentation of the marvels of the laws of nature and actually opened my eyes to certain things I hadn’t considered before. The problem here is you! It’s your peculiar view on ma’aseh bereishis that is problematic, not the LON.

    As you can see, I explain clearly why, in theory, the LON can indeed be used by the rational mind but cannot be used by one who adopts your peculiar outlook on the beriah. If you want you can supply a reason as to why you disagree with me but for the life of me I can’t comprehend why you don’t understand me!

    Continued…

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  6. Natan Slifkin -

    As for your claim that I am being self-contradictory and incoherent - I already addressed this in my comments to your previous post, but you apparently ignored what I wrote. As you know, many scientists disagree with this statistical improbability that you claim. Personally I have never taken any sides on it. If it's statistically improbable, then, gezunte heit, we have more evidence for a Designer. And if it's not, then it doesn't matter, since the laws of nature are enough on their own.

    This too was responded to in my latest comments to you. I’ll just cut and paste.

    Quote - Many scientists? Like who? Like Richard Dawkins who tried to prove that evolution was possible by coming up with a computer-simulated mathematical model? His model was roundly destroyed by true mathematicians! He should have stuck to zoology. Mathematics is simply not his field.

    The statistical improbability of random chance mutations producing the endlessly purposeful and specifically complex phenomena of life can easily be grasped by anyone with average intelligence. If you actually believe that evolution is not improbable, you truly do not understand anything about the parsha.

    Personally I have never taken any sides on it.

    Have you read your book? Of course you’ve taken sides on it. By claiming that evolution can rationally account for the diversity of life, you’ve taken the side that it is not hugely improbable.

    If it's statistically improbable, then, gezunte heit, we have more evidence for a Designer.

    Gezunte heit? That’s all you have to say? Do you understand the implications of your theology? Do you understand that in your books you have rejected our longest-standing tradition regarding the most crucial event of history, ma’aseh bereishis? And now you come along and say that if evolution is indeed improbable, then “gezunte heit”, we can switch tracks and indeed see direct evidence of special design? Is this parsha so minor to you that you don’t even bother to take the time to study the improbability of evolution? In fact, you haven’t even taken the time to study the viability of the mechanisms of evolution either. If you studied these two things in depth, perhaps you would change your mind about evolution and reverse your egregiously anti-massoretic views regarding Creation.

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  7. Mchast –

    Shalom Aleichem and a freilichin Chanukah! Thank you for joining our forum. I hope your “stay” will be pleasant and informative.

    I would like to comment on your example. The problem with it is that we know that beavers are common while goblins are not. Therefore, it is ridiculous to suggest that there are goblins in the attic. However, if we don't know about the existence of goblins or beavers, then both explanations sound equally plausible, since we have no actual evidence as to which theory is correct.

    I agree. So what’s the problem? You haven’t pointed out any problem with my usage of this example.

    I would just like to point out that this is a corrupted example from Sober's basic principles of philosophy (which I used in college for my Philosophy of Science class).

    Corrupted? I prefer “adopted”. It fits perfectly for what I am trying to illustrate. Incidentally, when I first read Sober’s paper about five years ago, I was very excited. He was saying all the “right things” and going in a perfect direction with his position paper when all of a sudden he switched tracks and went irrational on me! I was very disappointed and even began writing my own position paper countering his anti-Design arguments. But the ID people have done a fine job so I stopped in the middle.

    The interesting application of this example to evolution/intelligent design is as follows: Evolutionists will often claim that evolution has been proven, and when confronted with the difficulties will respond, "Well, what other (naturalistic) theory is there?" IDers will say, "We've disproven evolution, therefore ID must be true since we don't know of anything that could design life in this manner." Both arguments rely on the "Only game in town" fallacy, since they assume that because there are no valid competing theories, theirs must be true.

    This is exactly why Sober is totally irrational! IDer’s don’t claim that ID must be true since we don’t know anything else that could design life! They claim it is true because we know that ID can design life! There are literally billions of examples of specifically complex and purposeful phenomena, such as cars, airplanes, rocket ships, skyscrapers and, yes, Paley’s watches. Every time, every single time we have investigated these phenomena, ID has been directly implicated! It’s not just that evolution is implausible. It is that ID is highly probable! Sure if Sober wants to be Humean, nothing will convince him. But I am talking here to rational people who recognize that our collective experiences form a valid foundation for arriving at rational conclusions.

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  8. David –

    I’m not sure I understand your question. I will paraphrase it in one sentence and hope I get it right.

    Isn’t it equally amazing, or perhaps even superior, to understand that the beriah was able to be created by Hashem using only a few laws of nature and allowing it to unfold naturally rather than be involved directly in the process?

    The answer is, maybe. And maybe not. But it doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. The issue here is whether the beriah must be understood to be the result of design or can it be imputed to chance natural laws. If the latter is true, than the beriah can no longer serve as a means of informing us about the existence of a Creator. Rav Hirsch’s statement assumes, a priori, the existence of the Creator. Only then can we talk about the greatness of Hashem that He created the beriah using a minimum amount of involvement etc.

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  9. In and of themselves, the LON are enough to demonstrate the presence of a Creator to the rational mind. But you, Rabbi Slfkin, cannot ta’anah that. You’ve already proclaimed that when it comes to the fortuitous nature of life, you are willing to forgo the highly unlikely nature of their composition and adopt a materialistic view. So claiming that the fortuitousness of LON are suddenly sufficient to attest to God is arbitrary, contradicts your view re evolution and is thus irrational.

    Again, if that were the case, the fact that I was being irrational with regard to ignoring the "highly unlikely" nature of evolution would mean nothing more than that. It would not mean that I forfeit my right to see the Hand of the Creator in the laws of nature!

    Suppose you have to religious Jews, one of whom sees the political events involved in the creation of the State of Israel as extraordinarily unlikely and a striking display of Providence, while the other does not see those events as particularly unusual. If the first person is correct, has the latter forfeited his right to see Hashem in nature? Of course not!

    So there is no reason why anyone, including me, is not able to point to the laws of nature and conclude that there is a Borei. So all these posts about "what's wrong with Rabbi Slifkin's theology" are now incorrect.

    (Part Two in the next comment)

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  10. Now with regard to your claim that I am willing to "forgo the highly unlikely nature" of evolution and that "by claiming that evolution can rationally account for the diversity of life, I’ve taken the side that it is not hugely improbable":

    First, you are mixing up common ancestry with evolutionary mechanisms - something that I took great pains to differentiate in my book. One can accept common ancestry without taking any stand whatsoever on how evolution happened - whether one species changed into another supernaturally, or naturalistically via Darwinian means, or naturalistically via some means that we have not yet discovered.

    Then, when I point out that many scientists disagree with this statistical improbability that you claim, you say that they're speaking nonsense. Now, you might be right, but they disagree with you. And they have just as much credibility as you, if not more.

    Personally, I think that this topic is extremely complicated and too difficult for a non-specialist to form a meaningful opinion on. I also think that we are still at the early stages of this branch of biology and the field is still being refined. So whereas you are confident in your ability to figure it all out, I think that you are simply applying your religious beliefs. You claim that it is "easy to grasp". Yet many intelligent people, and who have more expertise in the field than you, completely disagree with your conclusions. I myself lack the expertise to form an opinion on the scientific viability of the currently proposed evolutionary mechanisms and so I do not form one. All I do in the book is note that many scientists (including religious people) believe that the mechanisms are basically viable, and I show how it does not conflict with Judaism.

    But, again, none of this has any bearing on the topic of perceiving God from the extraordinary nature of the laws of nature. That is something which I can grasp, and which I present in the book as attesting to a Borei. Hence, despite your frustration at my not accepting that the development of life provides a similar attestation, you cannot claim that my model does not present the world as attesting to a Borei.

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  11. Rabbi Slifkin:

    "Suppose you have two religious Jews, one of whom sees the political events involved in the creation of the State of Israel as extraordinarily unlikely and a striking display of Providence, while the other does not see those events as particularly unusual. If the first person is correct, has the latter forfeited his right to see Hashem in nature? Of course not!"

    Your mashal ignores the kal v'chomer of Rabbi Coffer's critique, which is as follows: If you take the position that fortuitousness in the existence and diversity of life is not enough to see design, then it makes no sense to say that fortuitousness in the LON is enough to see design.

    You respond that even lisheetoso of Rabbi Coffer, you do see a designer in the LON, and so the “only” valid taanah against your theology would be that you’re (a) inconsistent and (b) not a member of the Yeshiva of Avraham Avinu or Dovid HaMelech "only" with regard to your appreciation of a boreh of Life. In my estimation those are pretty valid taanas against such a theology (lisheetoso).

    You also respond that his sheeta is wrong, as follows:

    1) The kal v’chomer isn’t necessarily correct, but you take no position on this.

    2) If the kal v’chomer is correct then ein hachee namee you agree that fortuitousness in evolution is enough to see design. (Did you ever claim otherwise? I read your book COC but don’t recall.) If the kal v’chomer is incorrect then there is no inconsistency in the position that "fortuitousness in the existence and diversity of life (through evolution) is not enough to see design, but fortuitousness in the LON is enough to see design."

    Put another way, you are agnostic on the issue of whether fortuitousness in the existence and diversity of life is enough to see design. This would put you outside the Yeshiva of Avraham Avinu as Rabbi Coffer understands it.

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  12. The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.

    Douglas Adams(March 11, 1952 – May 11, 2001)

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  13. Put another way, you are agnostic on the issue of whether fortuitousness in the existence and diversity of life is enough to see design.

    No! This is incorrect. I certainly believe that the net result of evolution, i.e. the incredible diversity of life, is extremely fortuitous and, I think, enough to be a testimony to a Creator. But I don't know if there is innate mathematical improbability involved in evolution. If evolution is indeed incredibly improbable, then it is enough to see design. But I don't know if it is incredibly improbable.

    Incidentally, I certainly consider myself a member of the Yeshiva of Avraham Avinu or Dovid HaMelech with regard to seeing Hashem as the Creator of nature. I don't remotely think that their approach rules out there being a scientific explanation.

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  14. Natan Slifkin –

    Again, if that were the case, the fact that I was being irrational with regard to ignoring the "highly unlikely" nature of evolution would mean nothing more than that. It would not mean that I forfeit my right to see the Hand of the Creator in the laws of nature!... So all these posts about "what's wrong with Rabbi Slifkin's theology" are now incorrect.

    I’m sorry but it’s not as simple as that. This is not about your personal rights. I’m not sure if you understand this but Natan Slifkin, in addition to being an actual person, is also an icon. It represents certain modern approaches to the explication of Torah. If you personally wish to be irrational, that’s your business. But you set out to help klal yisrael deal with the ostensible Torah-Science Loggerhead (TSL) by writing books and publicizing your views. Once you’ve taken this step, there’s no turning back. “The Slifkin Approach” has transcended you as an individual. There have been no doubt thousands of people who have purchased your books in an attempt to adopt a coherent approach to the reconciliation of the TSL. Your approaches must make sense! They must be rational. What you propose is just ridiculous. You concede that fortuitousness is indeed a factor in determining the direct involvement of Hashem. Yet when it comes to evolution, you ignore the fortuitous nature of life, or, as you yourself referred to it in your book, “the biggest miracle of all”, and instead take the outrageous step of dismissing our entire collective mesorah and reinterpreting the verses! This approach is entirely unacceptable! What you should have done is announce to the world, in the most strident terms, that life is so fortuitous that direct Divine involvement is unavoidably implicated. You should have let the world know that evolution is just a philosophy of materialism. You should have explained to your readers that in reality there is no TSL because the facts actually support the Torah!

    I’m sorry but you cannot side-step my criticisms of your approaches by invoking your rights. This is not about you. This issue transcends both of us, whether you like it or not.

    I have to run now but I will respond to your next comment later on bl’n.

    Happy Chanukah…

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  15. R. Slifkin. I don't understand your formulation. If there's no innate improbability of evolution occurring then its occurrence is probable, no? And if a probable occurrence occurs, then how can it be deemed "fortuitous" and a "testimony to a creator"? If I flip a coin ten times and it lands on heads 8 times, after I bet on heads, would that be testimony that an Outside Power caused the fortuitous result? And that's a case where the outcome is actualy improbable!

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  16. Yet when it comes to evolution, you ignore the fortuitous nature of life,

    No, I don't. You keep misrepresenting my position. I point out that according to the vast majority of biologists, it is simply not the case that evolution is too mathematically improbable to happen. I certainly do see the diversity of life as attesting to a Creator - see my next comment - but not as necessarily meaning that evolution itself is scientifically invalid.

    But, again, even if it were the case that evolution is scientifically invalid and that I (along with the overwhelming majority of the scientific community) am being ignorant in not recognizing that, it would still NOT negate perceiving Hashem as Borei from the laws of nature. Hence, despite your frustration at my not accepting that the development of life is so scientifically unlikely as to provide a similar attestation, you cannot claim that my model does not present the world as attesting to a Borei.

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  17. R. Slifkin. I don't understand your formulation. If there's no innate improbability of evolution occurring then its occurrence is probable, no? And if a probable occurrence occurs, then how can it be deemed "fortuitous" and a "testimony to a creator"?

    Because, at the end of the day, it means that the laws of nature were set up in such a way that the end result is an incredible diversity of wondrous creatures. Which makes them all the more astounding.

    Cf. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan:
    "How great is the concept of God when looked at in this light. He is seen not merely as the Creator of life forms, atom by atom, molecule by molecule… The chemistry of carbon, the uniquely life-sustaining properties of water, are nothing less than miraculous. God created matter so that life, culminating in man, leading to the ultimate recognition of God, would be inevitable."

    Nachum, I recommend that you read my book!

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  18. Nosson,

    First, you are mixing up common ancestry with evolutionary mechanisms - something that I took great pains to differentiate in my book. One can accept common ancestry without taking any stand whatsoever on how evolution happened - whether one species changed into another supernaturally, or naturalistically via Darwinian means, or naturalistically via some means that we have not yet discovered.

    I have many comments to make regarding your statement above not least of which is the fact that we’ve been over this ground, you and I, many times and you already know my response. In fact, I just revisited my criticism a month ago in Part 1 of the “What’s Wrong” series here. In short, I demonstrate that the primary lines of evidence you rely on to support your contention re common ancestry (CA), such as homology, fossil evidence, and the presence of a “nested” hierarchy are equally consistent with the Torah’s view and in fact – in the case of fossil evidence – actually supports the Torah view and disproves the evolutionary paradigm. I also demonstrate that essentially you have already admitted to my counter-arguments in your books and that, at the very least, you yourself would claim that these supposed lines of evidence are far from conclusive… at the very least…

    To this I would like to append a few more ha’aros.

    Continued…

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  19. You defend your position by mentioning that CA could indeed be compatible with special creation. This would lead one to infer that you are basically granting the Torah’s view of creation, except with a weird idea of precisely how Hashem created the various species present on earth. If this was indeed true, your theology wouldn’t be half bad (even though I would probably still protest it because the Torah says that Hashem’s method was to cause the earth and the waters to generate life forms.) But you and I both know that this is not true.

    The whole point of your book is to reconcile Torah and Science by adopting the academic view and thus reinterpreting the verses. Even when discussing “supernatural” evolution, you accept, lock stock and barrel, the scientific paradigm of evolutionary processes over millions of years and I quote: “Thus, if one accepts the evidence that many thousands of new species continually came into existence over the course of millions of years, one must wonder where they came from. It is not only from a secular materialist point of view that it is most reasonable to assume that they developed – somehow – from the already existing creatures. Even from a religious perspective, there are strong grounds for arguing that it is most reasonable that God formed new creatures – somehow – from the already existing creatures, rather than miraculously created them from dirt.” (my emphasis)

    So, although the word “somehow” would seem to be synonymous with “supernatural”, it really isn’t. It’s just a way of side-stepping the issue of mechanisms while fully adopting the scientific paradigm. Which leads me to my next point. If you really do accept the “supernatural” intervention of God in the evolutionary process, where is the logic in saying that it must have taken millions of years? Why not just trash the entire scientific paradigm and go with a young earth paradigm?

    But anyone who’s read your book already knows the answer to this question. As you go on to explain, “Making new creatures from existing creatures is much more within the realm of natural law. God chooses to work within a system of natural law; not because He has to, but because He wants to.” This is what you mean by “supernatural”. We’re back to your initial defense of your position i.e. Hashem working through the laws of nature. But once he works through the laws of nature, He is hidden and thus our original criticism reasserts itself again: How can the study of the beriah provide us with an awareness of the Creator?

    Now, I am aware that this topic is complicated and the argumentation which leads up to our respective outlooks is convoluted, to say the least. Many readers probably get lost in the minutia or just lose interest. But there is one person who not only follows the nuances of all of the argumentation, he also understands precisely what my issue is: you! In fact, you brought up this very issue in your book! Here’s the quote. “However, Darwinian evolution would initially seem to be fundamentally incompatible with the Torah. For it is clear from Scripture that we are supposed to perceive God from the natural world. If the natural world appears to have come about by chance, then how can we perceive God from it?”

    This is exactly my issue! Thus far, your responses have been entirely unsatisfactory, both online and in your book. I have a lot more to say but I will save it for later comments.

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  21. But there is one person who not only follows the nuances of all of the argumentation, he also understands precisely what my issue is: you!
    ...
    Thus far, your responses have been entirely unsatisfactory, both online and in your book


    I accept that Rabbi Slifkin's responses have been unsatisfactory to Rabbi Coffer. Rabbi Coffer is also suggesting that RNS's responses are objectively "unsatisfactory" even to RNS himself! IOW, RNS is a charlatan.

    I would be pleased to be informed that I am misunderstanding RSC's position.

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  22. I certainly would not claim that "these supposed lines of evidence are far from conclusive."

    And I wasn't claiming that I personally believe that one species changed into another via supernatural means. I was just illustrating the range of possibilities available. I personally, for hashkafic reasons, believe that there is some sort of naturalistic mechanism for how one species changes into another, although I am far from committed to the idea that Neo-Darwinian evolution is it.

    But once he works through the laws of nature, He is hidden and thus our original criticism reasserts itself again: How can the study of the beriah provide us with an awareness of the Creator?

    I addressed this in my comments above. The natural world, with all its complexity and diversity, is amazing. The idea of God being able to create all this via a set of laws rather than piecemeal is even more amazing. All you can say is that you don't find such an idea to sufficiently point towards God. But plenty of other people can and do. And in any case, your claim is self-contradictory, because you have already admitted that even events that can be explained naturalistically, such as the Six-Day War, point to God.

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  23. Yitz -

    I accept that Rabbi Slifkin's responses have been unsatisfactory to Rabbi Coffer. Rabbi Coffer is also suggesting that RNS's responses are objectively "unsatisfactory" even to RNS himself! IOW, RNS is a charlatan.

    That's your conclusion, not mine. I'm simply pointing out the fact that in Rabbi Slifkin's books, he writes that they are not conclusive. However, I would never call him a charlatan and in fact I do not think that at all. Not that I really need to expalin this to anyone but I will do it one time, here, for the record, that's it. BTY, you are welcome to confirm this with RNS. Never have I accused him of anything other than faulty scholarship and he knows that. In fact, if you Google my writings you will find that I actually defended him against accusations of kefira! 'nuff said...

    As far as my peronal opinion regarding the obvious contradiction between his personal conclusions and some of the things he writes in his books, I know exactly the reason for it but I will treat it when I get to Nosson's latest comment.

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  24. Rabbi Slifkin -

    Then, when I point out that many scientists disagree with this statistical improbability that you claim, you say that they're speaking nonsense. Now, you might be right, but they disagree with you. And they have just as much credibility as you, if not more.

    I'd like to point out two things. First of all, I am not aware of "many" scientists who have studied the mathematical probabilities associated with evolutionary theory and have concluded that evolution is not statistically improbable. In fact I am quite certain that this is wrong.

    The second thing is that you are improperly pitting me against these scientists. Sure, if you have me on one side and all these purported scientists on the other, I would understand your hesitation. But when it comes to scientific things, I never make statements based on my own authority. I always rely on the experts for the facts. And I have plenty of quotes from well-recognized geneticists and mathematicians regarding the statistical improbability of evolution. Even when I dismissed Dawkin's computer model, that was only because I waited to see what expert mathematicians would say about it before I commented. Sources available upon request...

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  25. Rabbi Slifkin -

    Personally, I think that this topic is extremely complicated and too difficult for a non-specialist to form a meaningful opinion on.

    On what grounds? When it comes to zoology, you certainly don’t think it is too complicated to form an opinion. Zoology is also very complicated and yet you put your mind to it, amassed a remarkable amount of knowledge in the field, and even wrote books on the topic. All without degrees! When it comes to animal gross anatomy, I’m sure you could go toe to toe with any zoology graduate.

    The truth is the improbability of evolution is far simpler to grasp than your personal field of expertise as I will demonstrate shortly.

    So whereas you are confident in your ability to figure it all out, I think that you are simply applying your religious beliefs.

    Ok. Fair enough. You want an objective demonstration. Read on.

    You claim that it is "easy to grasp".

    Yup. Here’s one tiny example in a sea of examples. Evolutionists claim that the cell evolved and eventually single-celled organisms evolved to multi-celled etc. Let’s start with the most fundamental unit of life; the cell. In fact, that’s way too much. Let’s start with the basic “building blocks” of cells, proteins. Proteins are giant molecules consisting of sub-units called amino acids. These sub-units are arranged in a particular sequence and in specific quantities and structures. These sub-units are what make up a living protein. The simplest protein is composed of 50 amino acids with some that are composed of thousands. If even one amino acid is removed, replaced or added into the structure of a protein, it would result in a totally useless molecular mass. Every amino acid must be in the right place and in the right order. So, let’s perform a simple probability calculation which is easily graspable by anyone with average intelligence.

    An average protein molecule is composed of 288 amino acids (containing twelve different types) and thus can be arranged in approximately 10 to the 288th power different ways (in other words, a 1 followed by 288 zeros! – this number is incomprehensible in human terms. It can be mathematically described but nothing in our experience allows us to relate to it in concrete terms). Of all of these possible sequences, only one is capable of forming the necessary protein. The rest of them are entirely useless amino acid chains which may even be deleterious to the organism. “Fortuitous” is a grossly inadequate word to describe such numbers.

    But wait: a protein molecule of 288 amino acids is modest when compared to some of the humongous proteins which are composed of thousands of amino acids. And we’re not talking about one protein here. One of the smallest bacteria ever discovered, Mycoplasma hominis H39, contains 600 types of proteins! So we would have to repeat our probability calculations 600 times! If the word impossible could ever be used, this would certainly seem to be a candidate.

    The preceding probability calculation is so simple it can be easily grasped by the average 9th grader. It is certainly much easier to grasp than all that zoological knowledge you’ve got memorized. You’re short-selling yourself by assuming that the probability factors relating to evolution are beyond your grasp…

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  27. R. Coffer:

    You wrote "Rabbi Slifkin claimed that he too uses the beriah as a means of establishing the presence of the Creator, just not through the phenomena of the universe. Rather, he sees God in the fortuitousness of the laws of nature (e.g. fine-tuning coincidences).”

    R. Slifkin clarified that he is *unsure* whether the phenomena of the universe can also be used as a means of establishing the presence of the Creator. He further maintains that EVEN IF it cannot, one can still see Hashgacha through the phenomena of the universe.

    So your biggest concern with R. Slifkin's theology is in this one area (natural phenomena), where he believes it's possible that one can only see Hashgacha, and you believe that one can see the direct hand of a Designer?

    This gets you all bent out of shape, causes you to debate for years, devote yourself to scientific research, and compose blogs devoted solely to R. Slifkin?

    This is "the" major theological shortcoming inherent in Rabbi Slifkin’s views, which you fear is leading so many Jews astray?

    I like you. But do you see that you may have lost all sense of proportion?

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  28. Rabbi Slifkin

    Yet many intelligent people, and who have more expertise in the field than you, completely disagree with your conclusions.

    If you’re talking about the statistical improbabilities of evolutionary theory, I just gave you a simple example from the evolution of a living protein molecule. I am actually able to give you endless such examples. But let’s begin with that one. Kindly produce all the intelligent people who are able to refute this example or at least try and refute it yourself. I am totally unimpressed with claims that other people who are brighter and more knowledgeable than me disagree with me. Let’s stay on point and discuss the substantive material please.

    I myself lack the expertise to form an opinion on the scientific viability of the currently proposed evolutionary mechanisms and so I do not form one.

    This is just plain false. You don’t need any great expertise to form an opinion on the mechanisms. All you need to do is study the material in exactly the same fashion you studied Zoology. Darwin’s book is very readable. S.J. Gould was a prolific writer who explains evolutionary theory to the layman via popular books and so does Richard Dawkins. All you need to do is read. Besides, you are well aware that the scientists themselves are split with each side claiming that the other side’s mechanism is impossible. That’s pretty damning evidence against any viable evolutionary mechanism.

    But, again, none of this has any bearing on the topic of perceiving God from the extraordinary nature of the laws of nature. That is something which I can grasp, and which I present in the book as attesting to a Borei. Hence, despite your frustration at my not accepting that the development of life provides a similar attestation, you cannot claim that my model does not present the world as attesting to a Borei.

    I can, and I do. And in fact, so do you. As I mentioned previously, you ask my very question in your book. You ask; “However, Darwinian evolution would initially seem to be fundamentally incompatible with the Torah. For it is clear from Scripture that we are supposed to perceive God from the natural world. If the natural world appears to have come about by chance, then how can we perceive God from it?”

    By saying that the original laws of nature are fortuitous, you haven’t answered my question or your own. And then, let’s not forget the fact that the aggregate functions of life is much more fortuitous than the laws of nature making your fundamental thesis irrational and thus unadoptable.

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  29. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I certainly would not claim that "these supposed lines of evidence are far from conclusive."

    I take back what I wrote. I know you don’t claim that. What I meant to write is that anyone reading the chapters in your book dealing with the lines of evidence I delineated would see that you write that they are not conclusive and would thus have the right to assume that if asked you would claim that. Dvarim she’bilaiv aynam dvarim…

    I addressed this in my comments above. The natural world, with all its complexity and diversity, is amazing. The idea of God being able to create all this via a set of laws rather than piecemeal is even more amazing. All you can say is that you don't find such an idea to sufficiently point towards God.

    That’s not all I can say and in fact I wouldn’t even say that. What I say is that your thesis is incoherent. Let’s try one more time.

    What does the word “amazing” mean to you? Why would anyone be amazed at something? If we had to nail down the one primary element which induces the experience of amazement in the human mind, what would it be? The answer is: improbability. Not that you have to take your calculator out each time you become amazed at something. It’s intuitive. It’s native to the human intellect. A calculator merely helps to establish the precise odds, if there happens to be a rigorous mathematical pathway that can be traced. Otherwise, it is the sheer improbability of something that induces amazement in people. Now I have a theory as to why that is. People instinctively appreciate say, works of art because the beauty and complexity in the art testify to the human intelligence which created it so essentially they are appreciating the intelligence behind the work of art. If the world is amazing, it’s because we appreciate the Intelligence which designed it. However, if it could have just as easily occurred by accident, the amazement is gone. You know why? Because the intelligence is gone too.

    When you say that “The natural world, with all its complexity and diversity, is amazing” you are saying that it is improbable and thus points to a Creator. Once you can attribute the entire natural world to accident (i.e. random chance), the world is no longer amazing.

    Furthermore, once you’ve eliminated the improbability factor from the natural world, it is incoherent to say that “The idea of God being able to create all this via a set of laws rather than piecemeal is even more amazing”. The natural unfolding of the world is probable so who says that God created anything via the set of laws. Maybe He just created the laws and that’s it.

    Rabbi Slifkin, I think I've responded to all your comments. I sense that we are not going to reach a meeting of the minds on this topic however as long as you continue to keep a thread going, I commit to continue to respond to your comments. However, personally I would like to wrap up this thread so I can move on to your posts on Chazal... I leave it up to you...

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  30. The natural unfolding of the world is probable so who says that God created anything via the set of laws. Maybe He just created the laws and that’s it.

    You've lost me here. The whole point is that God creates via the laws. And it's amazing because the net result, which is so diverse and complex, shows how ingenious these laws are.

    Imagine that you watch an animated movie. And you find out that instead of each frame being drawn separately, they were generated by a computer program for which you just have to tell it the characters and storyline and it automatically generates the animation. That would be extraordinary, and it would attest to incredible genius on behalf of the programmer.

    Rabbi Coffer, I believe that I have demonstrated that your theological charges against me are entirely baseless, and that your position is inconsistent. Your charge was that my model prevents one seeing the Hand of God. But you conceded that, objectively speaking, the laws of nature attest to a Borei. You conceded that, once one believes in a Borei, one can see evidence of His Hand even in phenomena that can be explained naturalistically. You claim that I am being irrational in not seeing that animal life cannot be explained naturalistically, but I dispute that, and in any case, it has no bearing on your accusation that my model prevents one acknowledging a Borei.

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  32. R. Slifkin:

    "Imagine that you watch an animated movie. And you find out that instead of each frame being drawn separately, they were generated by a computer program for which you just have to tell it the characters and storyline and it automatically generates the animation. That would be extraordinary, and it would attest to incredible genius on behalf of the programmer."

    Your mashal doesn't work. In your nimshal, all the Programmer did was create a program that could generate its own random characters and storylines.

    Which would in itself be an amazing feat by the programmer. But it would negate the idea of Hashgacha.

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  33. As I think about it, anyone who believes in Hashgacha has to deal with the same issue, but on much different scales.

    R. Coffer has to deal with the question of how can he be sure that the hand of Hashem is involved in matters that unfold in a seemingly naturalitic manner.

    But R. Slifkin has to deal with a MUCH larger question: How can he be sure that mankind exists for a purpose?

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  34. Nachum, it looks like you haven't read my book!

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  36. Actually, I read COC cover to cover when it was first published. I had been a bit uneasy with Masaseh Breishis and ancient universe issues and at the time I was very excited to see a new approach. I personally didn't see your approach as that ground-breaking (proportionate to the blowback) from a hashgachic perspective. When I was in Ner Israel high school in Baltimore they brought in a guest speaker who gave a whole presentation of the idea that a "day" in Maaseh Breishis actually means billions of years. (I'm aware that's not how you explain it.) That view was hashgachicaly uncontroversial in the mid '80s.

    So nu? Can you respond to my last point in one short paragraph?

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  37. I would say that the fact of the human brain being the most complex entity in the known universe indicates that we are here for a purpose.

    (Incidentally, Rambam did not believe that man was the goal of creation.)

    Regarding your comments on hashgachah - please re-read the relevant chapter in my book!

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  38. You've lost me here. The whole point is that God creates via the laws. And it's amazing because the net result, which is so diverse and complex, shows how ingenious these laws are.

    That’s your whole point. Unfortunately you haven’t made it yet. Since, according to you, everything after the initial laws, including life, can be seen as evolving naturally without any Divine interference, who says that the initial formation of the laws was ultimately responsible for the end result? If the odds are that under current operating conditions, galaxies would form eventually over time, the earth would be formed eventually over time, species would evolve naturally over time etc., then maybe everything we see in the universe is just random chance accidents which eventually formed into what we see now? It happened to take 13.7 billion years because that’s the amount of time you need for the complexity we see to form by chance.

    And of course you still haven’t answered the primary question which is: how can you say that the fortuity of the laws of nature forces one to acknowledge direct Divine Creation while simultaneously saying that the fortuity of the appearance of all of the phenomena of the universe, including life, does not necessitate direct Divine Creation?

    And finally, you haven’t answered your own question. Here it is again: “However, Darwinian evolution would initially seem to be fundamentally incompatible with the Torah. For it is clear from Scripture that we are supposed to perceive God from the natural world. If the natural world appears to have come about by chance, then how can we perceive God from it?”

    Your response, that we see Hashem from the fine-tuning of the laws of nature does not answer the question. We are supposed to see Him directly from nature. I can’t recall Dovid haMelech ever talking about fine tuned laws in Tehilim…

    Imagine that you watch an animated movie. And you find out that instead of each frame being drawn separately, they were generated by a computer program for which you just have to tell it the characters and storyline and it automatically generates the animation. That would be extraordinary, and it would attest to incredible genius on behalf of the programmer.

    Excellent mashal! Unfortunately, it totally disproves your position! Let’s think for a minute. If you were watching a movie and during the movie the following question presented itself to your mind; were the frames created separately by a sentient intelligence and put purposefully in a specific order, or were the frames generated by a computer program? Which would you choose? Obviously the former. Why? Because the movie screams direct intelligent involvement. It portrays pictures which happily coincide perfectly with the audio presentation and convey thousands of coherent messages over a protracted period of time. That’s exactly how you are supposed to look at the beriah!

    Now let’s say someone would come along and tell you that there was a super-smart computer programmer with the ability to program a computer to simulate sentient intelligence and produce a coherent audio-visual story; you would doubt him would you not? So why shouldn’t someone doubt you when you claim exactly the same about the beriah?

    What you’re claiming might indeed be true but it is certainly not the rational conclusion to reach. You have no proof that it is so. So how can someone see anything from the beriah when you are forcing them to adopt such an irrational, improvable doctrine?

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  39. Since, according to you, everything after the initial laws, including life, can be seen as evolving naturally without any Divine interference, who says that the initial formation of the laws was ultimately responsible for the end result?

    Because if the laws were different, the universe would be a chaotic mess! That's the whole point! The extraordinary nature of the universe shows how amazing the laws are!

    And of course you still haven’t answered the primary question which is: how can you say that the fortuity of the laws of nature forces one to acknowledge direct Divine Creation while simultaneously saying that the fortuity of the appearance of all of the phenomena of the universe, including life, does not necessitate direct Divine Creation?

    Actually, I answered this numerous times; you just never acknowledged my answer. The answer is that I am not convinced that, given the laws of nature, the evolution of all the different creatures is scientifically extremely improbable. And the second point that you keep ignoring is that even if I were being incorrect or irrational regarding the conclusions to be drawn from animal life, this does not negate the fact that you and I both agree that the laws of nature attest to a Borei.

    Your response, that we see Hashem from the fine-tuning of the laws of nature does not answer the question. We are supposed to see Him directly from nature.

    We do - in that the phenomena of nature reveal how extraordinary the laws are.

    Rambam said that we see evidence of God from the fact that the paths of the stars and planets cannot be explained via any scientific laws. Now, you surely agree that today we do in fact have scientific laws to explain this. We also have adequate scientific explanations for how stars are formed. Does this mean that astronomy no longer provides reason to see God?

    With regard to the movie mashal, you're trying to modify the scenario in order to make a different point, regarding the scientific viability of evolution. But that's not what we are discussing. We are discussing whether the results of laws being applied can be considered to attest to the genius of the lawmaker. My mashal proves that to be the case.

    It seems to me (and apparently to Nachum too) that I have shown your theological charge against me to be essentially baseless. We both agree that the universe attests to a Borei, and we both agree that the laws of nature accomplish this. We also both agree that, once one acknowledges the existence of a Borei, He can be seen as working even through events that are explicable in naturalistic terms. But you are, understandably, reluctant to accept that your Great Mission is groundless, and so you are desperately searching for some theologically significant way to differentiate my approach from yours and to retroactively justify your campaign.

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  40. Both Rabbis Coffer and Slifkin maintain that a Boreh can be perceived through the study of nature.

    R. Coffer does so as follows. When R. Coffer studies a plant, for example, he does not see HKBH as the Boreh of that specific plant. He is aware that the plant came into existence through photosynthesis, and imposes “Hashgacha” on top of this. But he is also aware that this plant has a “parent”, which had a “parent” in turn, all the way back to the “first” plant.” How did this “first” plant come into existence? R. Coffer perceives that, in light of the complexity of the nature of “plants”, the only way the first plant could have come into existence was through, drumroll please, an act of Briah. Hence, when R. Coffer studies the phenomena of nature he sees a Boreh.

    When R. Slifkin studies a plant, he likewise does not see HKBH as the Boreh of that specific plant. He is aware that the plant came into existence through photosynthesis, and likewise imposes “Hashgacha” on top of this. He too is aware that this plant has a “parent”, which had a “parent” in turn, all the way back to the “first” plant.” How did this “first” plant come into existence? R. Slifkin maintains that it was through evolution from a less complex type of organism, which in turn came into existence from something less complex, going all the way back to the simplest inorganic matter. The simplest inorganic matter came into being through, drumroll please, a Boreh. Furthermore, R. Slifkin perceives that the only way the first plant could have evolved was in conjunction with extremely fine-tuned laws of nature, which were created by, drumroll please, a Boreh. Hence, when R. Slifkin studies the phenomena of nature he sees a Boreh.

    And the problem with R. Slifkin’s theology is . . . .?

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  41. BTW, I join R. Coffer in his disbelief in the ability of all of life to evolve from microorganisms (let alone from inorganic matter, which I don't know if the Theory of Evolution claims).

    Although I disagree with R. Slifkin and the scientific community on this issue, I still fail to see the theological problem with R. Slifkin's position (other than the fact that it is completely contrary to the universal classical understanding of Maasah Breishis and undermines the concept of Shabbos as understood throughout the millenia).

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  42. Rabbi Slifkin:

    Because if the laws were different, the universe would be a chaotic mess! That's the whole point! The extraordinary nature of the universe shows how amazing the laws are!

    Oh for heaven’s sake! I agree with you! But that doesn’t mean that the laws themselves are then responsible for the formation of all of the universe’s phenomena from 13.7b years to present. According to you, everything, literally everything, evolved via random naturalistic processes other than the laws themselves! Oh, to be sure, you’re a clever fellow and you’ve come up with a nice chap: we can allow for evolutionary chance and yet see design in the laws. But this is meaningless. If everything after the laws is by chance, then man may very well not have appeared on the scene. You don’t need the presence of man, or any of the phenomena of the universe per se, in order to possess a non-chaotic universe. You can have an ordered universe and not have what we have today. What unavoidably emerges from your thesis is that the universe as we have it today is pure accident! There are an endless number of “ordered” scenarios for the universe with the laws we have today. Any evolutionist worth his salt will tell you that if we turned back the clock and restarted the process from scratch, there’s no telling what we’d get.

    The answer is that I am not convinced that, given the laws of nature, the evolution of all the different creatures is scientifically extremely improbable.

    Perhaps not. But my question is objective. The fortuity of life is greater than the fortuity of the laws of nature. I even provided you with a simple calculation which demonstrates this. Your personal conviction, or lack thereof, is irrelevant. The issue here is whether your approach can be reasonably adopted or not. In order to support your position, it would behoove you to refute my example or at least explain to your readers precisely why you are not convinced that life is not extremely improbable.

    You’ve already admitted that you’ve never studied the mechanisms of evolution. You’ve further admitted that you’ve never given serious consideration to the statistical improbabilities of evolution. You’re not “unconvinced” about the improbability of life. “Unconvinced” implies considered information followed by doubt. This doesn’t apply to you. You are simply unaware! And willfully so I might add. You claim that the statistical probabilities of evolution can only be grasped by “experts” whilst blithely discussing the statistical improbabilities of the laws of nature as if you’re an expert. Please explain to this dumb person precisely how you have arrived at your conviction in one field and your lack thereof in the other. Incidentally, the mathematical formulas associated with fine-tuned forces of nature are far more complicated than that associated with biological entitles.

    And the second point that you keep ignoring is that even if I were being incorrect or irrational regarding the conclusions to be drawn from animal life, this does not negate the fact that you and I both agree that the laws of nature attest to a Borei.

    Ignore? I haven’t ignored this point. I responded to it numerous times. Once again, we are not talking about you and I. I am not accusing you personally of anything. We are talking about the Slifkin Approach and whether it can be reasonably adopted by people who are troubled by an apparent Torah Science loggerhead. We are discussing the viability of the Slifkin Approach to satisfy the discerning questioner. The fact that you and I agree regarding the laws of nature does not make your approach any more coherent. In fact, it makes it incoherent!

    Continued…

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  43. Rabbi Slifkin:

    Me: Your response, that we see Hashem from the fine-tuning of the laws of nature does not answer the question. We are supposed to see Him directly from nature.

    We do - in that the phenomena of nature reveal how extraordinary the laws are

    That’s indirectly Rabbi!

    Rambam said that we see evidence of God from the fact that the paths of the stars and planets cannot be explained via any scientific laws. Now, you surely agree that today we do in fact have scientific laws to explain this. We also have adequate scientific explanations for how stars are formed. Does this mean that astronomy no longer provides reason to see God?

    You’ve misunderstood the Rambam. The Rambam does have scientific descriptions which discuss the pathways of the stars. But nonetheless he understood that these descriptions were not able to account for “why” the stars followed these pathways. The same applies today. We use the law of gravitational force to explain the pathway of the heavenly bodies but do we understand “why” the gravitational force functions this way? No. This was the Rambam’s point.

    With regard to the movie mashal, you're trying to modify the scenario… We are discussing whether the results of laws being applied can be considered to attest to the genius of the lawmaker. My mashal proves that to be the case

    #1, I am not modifying the scenario. I stick to precisely the same scenario you provide.

    #2, I agree with you that your mashal demonstrates the possibility of your thesis re the beriah. But that’s not the issue. Take a look at the heading of this thread. “Logical Consistency versus Rationality”. Yes, your mashal proves that it is logically consistent to claim that a super genius computer programmer somehow bestowed artificial intelligence to a computer and gave it the ability to simulate real intelligence. But anyone watching a movie and concluding this would be considered irrational, even by you!

    It seems to me (and apparently to Nachum too)

    Keep Nachum out of this. This is between you and me.

    Continued…

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  44. Rabbi Slifkin –

    But you are, understandably, reluctant to accept that your Great Mission is groundless, and so you are desperately searching for some theologically significant way to differentiate my approach from yours and to retroactively justify your campaign.

    I have been trained by my Rabbeim in the darkay ha’mussar so normally I would take such an allegation under serious advisement. But not in this case. I believe I have advanced some seriously problematic issues with your approaches. I believe you are emotionally involved and thus unable to grasp/accept certain issues. The fact that you consistently relate to my criticisms in a personal way (and who could blame you) only serves to confirm my suspicions.

    In an interchange between you and Nachum, you averred the following: “I certainly consider myself a member of the Yeshiva of Avraham Avinu or Dovid HaMelech with regard to seeing Hashem as the Creator of nature.”

    In an odd way, I consider you not only a member of the yeshiva, I consider you a Rosh Yeshiva. Anyone who has read your books on animals cannot fail to see the pure wonder and amazement of the author as he discusses the marvels of Zoology. Even a stoic, indifferent person can’t help being affected by the sheer ebullience which permeates your writings. When you and I were arguing about the Stincus, I had occasion to visit your ZooTorah Blog site. I saw the incredible Techiyas hameisim frog video you attached but the imagery didn’t make nearly as great an impression on me as your comment. You wrote: “One of the things I love about the animal kingdom is that after 30 years learning about animals, there are still new things that blow me away!”

    Rabbi Slifkin, all I can say is that you are an enigma. I thought I couldn’t figure out my wife... then I met you…

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  45. Nachum –

    I apologize for ignoring your comments for the past few days. I had to do it. This blog is dedicated to an analysis of Rabbi Slifkin’s views. If he chooses to jump on board, I have no choice but to focus my attentions on his responses. It’s only fair. I assume that our back and forth served to clarify our respective shittos. Bl’n I will look through your comments and respond to anything I feel relevant.

    Good Shabbos…

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  46. Rabbi Coffer:

    If you are nothing else (and I take no position on that), you are definitley a mensch.

    Have a wonderful Shabbos.

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  47. Some comments after reading the thread top to bottom. Italicized comments are taken from Rabbi Coffer's remarks.

    What you should have done is announce to the world, in the most strident terms, that life is so fortuitous that direct Divine involvement is unavoidably implicated. You should have let the world know that evolution is just a philosophy of materialism. You should have explained to your readers that in reality there is no TSL because the facts actually support the Torah!

    Would that have done any good? For the good or the better, there are plenty of observent believing orthodox Jews that are persuaded by the validiy of the scientific community. If RNS hadn't written the books, then someone else would have covered the same ground. Does Rabbi really suggest that if RNS had not written his books, then no religous Jews would be persuaded by science? I for one have never read any of his books.

    You don’t need the presence of man, or any of the phenomena of the universe per se, in order to possess a non-chaotic universe.

    Of course. This was the case for 99.99%+ of the existence of the universe (barring speculation on alien intelligent life). So what? We are here now and we are contemplentating God.

    What unavoidably emerges from your thesis is that the universe as we have it today is pure accident!

    Is this not free choice? Yes - one can examine the universe on purely materialistic terms, and indeed this is the mandate of science.

    I suppose that in here lies the crux of the matter and there are volumes to be philosophized here.

    I believe you are emotionally involved and thus unable to grasp/accept certain issues.

    This claim is beyond patronizing!

    RNS grasps everything just fine. RSC does not want to agree to disagree with RNS or anyone.

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  48. Yitz -

    Would that have done any good?

    Sure. Rabbi Slifkin is an expert in zoology and is conversant in scientific terminology. His books could have had an enormous affect on people looking for a rational reconciliation.

    For the good or the better, there are plenty of observent believing orthodox Jews that are persuaded by the validiy of the scientific community. If RNS hadn't written the books, then someone else would have covered the same ground.

    I have no idea what you are talking about. Rabbi Slifkin covers all the ground just fine. In fact, Rabbi Slifkin is brutally honest in all his books. His presentation of the facts is beyond reproach and I am not ashamed to say that I have used his books on more than one occasion for mareh mikomos and the like (don't tell the ban people I have his books... :-)). In fact, he is so honest about his treatment of the science that a guy like me is able to quote long passages from his books about the evidence for common ancestry and actually prove that the evidence is inconclusive, at best! My issue with Rabbi Slifkin’s books is not his “covering of the ground”. My issue is with his personal conclusions based on the ground he’s covered.

    Does Rabbi really suggest that if RNS had not written his books, then no religous Jews would be persuaded by science?

    Of course not. What I am claiming is if his conclusions were different in his books, many of these same Jews may very well have adopted a more massoretic view when they realized that there really isn’t any contradiction between the scientific facts and the Torah.

    I for one have never read any of his books.

    Why not? And why are you “persuaded by science”? Have you investigated both sides exhaustively? Have you carefully weighed the arguments? If not, where is all this persuasion coming from? And if so, can you please enlighten us as to why you are so persuaded by science? I’d love to get a sample view from amongst the “plenty of orthodox believing Jews that are persuaded by the validity of the scientific community”.

    Continued…

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  49. Of course. This was the case for 99.99%+ of the existence of the universe (barring speculation on alien intelligent life). So what? We are here now and we are contemplentating God.

    You missed my point Yitz. The fact that we are contemplating God right now is accidental. Nothing after the laws of nature require Divine involvement including life itself (which now Rabbi Slifkin at least admits that he is unsure about) and therefore even if life did somehow arise from inanimate matter and did begin to evolve, the fact that it evolved to you and I discussing God is not guaranteed at all according to the theory. The laws of nature that Rabbi Slifkin is discussing, such as the gravitational force or the electromagnetic force, are not directly responsible for stellar, chemical and biological evolution. They simply create an arena which makes it possible to happen. But the fact that it did happen, along with all the other phenomena of the universe, is pure accident! You are an accident! I am an accident! Is this really the reconciliation you are looking for?

    Is this not free choice? Yes - one can examine the universe on purely materialistic terms, and indeed this is the mandate of science.

    Ahh… so you do understand this. This just begs the question: why are you persuaded by a community of individuals who automatically rule out non-materialistic explanations?

    Is this not free choice? Yes - one can examine the universe on purely materialistic terms, and indeed this is the mandate of science. I suppose that in here lies the crux of the matter and there are volumes to be philosophized here.

    You know, I stared at these two sentences for at least a half a minute and it suddenly hit me, like an epiphany. You’re absolutely correct! After all our arguing back and forth, at least Rabbi Slifkin’s idea of hashgacha has been clarified by him. But mine hasn’t. Would I not say that there is free choice in seeing or not seeing Hashem in the beriah? And if so, why do I insist that the phenomena of the beriah must be understood within the framework of direct Divine intervention? What happened to bechira, free choice? If there is indeed free choice, doesn’t that imply that there is the possibility of seeing the world within the framework of accident?

    Well Yitz, I don’t know if you meant all this or not but if you did I thank you for alerting me to this issue. I was going to move on to Rabbi Slifkin’s statements about Chazal but I think I will take a little detour. Bl’n my next post will treat the fundamental yesod of hashgachaso Yisbarach and will (hopefully) clarify its proper parameters while simultaneously demonstrating that it does not contradict the adoption of a meta-natural recent creation event.

    Continued…

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  50. Me: I believe you are emotionally involved and thus unable to grasp/accept certain issues.

    Yitz: This claim is beyond patronizing!

    Hmm… so, the claim that I am “understandably, reluctant to accept that your Great Mission is groundless, and so you are desperately searching for some theologically significant way to differentiate my approach from yours and to retroactively justify your campaign” is alright with you? I think you are showing your true colors Yitz…

    Now listen carefully. Neither of these statements is patronizing! And neither I nor Rabbi Slifkin took offence at each other’s comments. There was no name calling or anything like that. We are two individuals who are very knowledgeable about the topic we are discussing and are extremely passionate about our views. Rabbi Slifkin really believes that my comments are a result of my need to justify my campaign against him so he told me so! No problem. And I really believe that he is emotionally involved and is thus unable to accept certain arguments and I told him so. No problem. Rabbi Slifkin doesn’t need you to defend his honor. He’s quite capable of responding if he thinks I made an inappropriate remark. The only thing remarks like the one you made serve to accomplish is to introduce an entirely unnecessary element of acrimony. I think we’ve been down this road once before Yitz.

    The fact is, Rabbi Slifkin himself, with characteristic honesty, raises the issue of his own emotional involvement. On November 8, he wrote: “It's always easier to knock things down than to build things up, and my mentors taught me that it is generally not the appropriate path in life. Too many blogs simply become places for people to vent. I know several unfortunate souls who were bothered by intellectual errors and distortions that they saw in various places, decided to set people straight, and simply became consumed by negativity. It destroyed them, and their relationships with other people. This is something that I always fear will happen to me; indeed, some people believe that it already has.”

    I welcome your remarks regarding the substance but respectfully enjoin you to refrain from expressing needlessly negative sentiments. Stick to things like your excellent ha’arah re bechira and forget the rest. It doesn’t accomplish anything…

    RNS grasps everything just fine.

    How do you know? You haven’t even studied the material. You’ve never even read his book!

    RSC does not want to agree to disagree with RNS or anyone.

    How do you know? You’ve known me for all of two months, tops! As it happens, for the most part, you’re right. But not just about me. About Rabbi Slifkin too. Unlike yourself, we have studied the topics in depth for a long time and have formulated strong opinions. Why should I or he agree to disagree with anything? What does that even mean? What is that? Some politically correct attitude which compromises core principles of Judaism for the sake of superficial peace? But on the other hand, if I see something in Rabbi Slifkin’s opinions that I believe possess some merit, I will admit to that despite the fact I might disagree. Your accusation is simply false.

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  51. Nachum –

    A gutte voch!

    I read through your comments and it is difficult for me to determine if you have any issues I need to address. It seems that during the course of my debate with Rabbi Slifkin, you kind of vacillated back and forth. I acknowledge your desire to see me address the issue of hashgacha and bl’n I will do so as soon as I can get to it. Is there anything else which needs to be addressed? If so, please restate your issues and I will gladly respond. I apologize for the inconvenience of making you rewrite.

    Be well,

    SC

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  52. But this is meaningless. If everything after the laws is by chance, then man may very well not have appeared on the scene. You don’t need the presence of man, or any of the phenomena of the universe per se, in order to possess a non-chaotic universe. You can have an ordered universe and not have what we have today. What unavoidably emerges from your thesis is that the universe as we have it today is pure accident!

    And is there any greater example of hashgachah than that?

    I could use the same argument back at you. If everything after creation is by chance (from a scientific perspective), then the State of Israel may very well not have appeared on the scene. You don’t need the presence of the State of Israel, or any of its astounding military victories per se, in order to possess a non-chaotic universe. You can have an ordered universe and not have what we have today. What unavoidably emerges from your thesis is that the State of Israel as we have it today and its military victories are pure accident!

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  53. Please explain to this dumb person precisely how you have arrived at your conviction in one field and your lack thereof in the other.

    Because the topic of evolutionary mechanisms is extremely complex - and even biologists agree that they haven't fully worked it out yet.

    Incidentally, the mathematical formulas associated with fine-tuned forces of nature are far more complicated than that associated with biological entitles.

    No, they're not. Furthermore, it is near-universally agreed that the laws of nature are very special. The only dispute is to as whether this is the result of God, extraordinary luck, or multiple universes.

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  54. We are talking about the Slifkin Approach and whether it can be reasonably adopted by people who are troubled by an apparent Torah Science loggerhead. We are discussing the viability of the Slifkin Approach to satisfy the discerning questioner. The fact that you and I agree regarding the laws of nature does not make your approach any more coherent. In fact, it makes it incoherent!

    Fine. So you can claim that, in your opinion, my approach is incoherent (amazingly, this charge appears to have occurred to nobody else). Just as long as we're clear that there is no longer a charge that it rules out perceiving a Borei.

    Yes, your mashal proves that it is logically consistent to claim that a super genius computer programmer somehow bestowed artificial intelligence to a computer and gave it the ability to simulate real intelligence. But anyone watching a movie and concluding this would be considered irrational, even by you!

    I think that God is smart enough to come up with such a computer program. Don't you? Surely you don't want to reveal yourself as a bona-fide heretic!

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  55. Nachum,

    I changed my mind. I decided to assume that your final comment was your present take on things. As such, I have synopsized all of my arguments in short sentences and you are welcome to look over the comments for an elaboration of my views. If after doing so you still remain unconvinced, I’m sure you’ll write me and let me know. First let’s address your initial argument.

    When R. Slifkin studies a plant, he likewise does not see HKBH as the Boreh of that specific plant. He is aware that the plant came into existence through photosynthesis, and likewise imposes “Hashgacha” on top of this. He too is aware that this plant has a “parent”, which had a “parent” in turn, all the way back to the “first” plant.” How did this “first” plant come into existence? R. Slifkin maintains that it was through evolution from a less complex type of organism, which in turn came into existence from something less complex, going all the way back to the simplest inorganic matter. The simplest inorganic matter came into being through, drumroll please, a Boreh.

    You are confusing two separate proofs for Hashem. The one you described above is philosophical and is referred to as the cosmological argument or the argument from cause and effect. The Rambam deals with this proof in Chelek Beis of the Moreh and I happen to have a paper written on it with my own version of the proof. But this is not the proof we are discussing here. Seeing Hashem from the beriah means seeing Hashem from the trappings of design apparent in the beriah. This is referred to as the argument from design.

    Furthermore, R. Slifkin perceives that the only way the first plant could have evolved was in conjunction with extremely fine-tuned laws of nature, which were created by, drumroll please, a Boreh. Hence, when R. Slifkin studies the phenomena of nature he sees a Boreh.

    And the problem with R. Slifkin’s theology is . . . .?


    Here’s a synopsis.

    1) Fine-tuned laws do not account for the presence of any of the phenomena of the universe. They merely set the arena for the possibility of their existence. Thus everything in the universe, other than the initial laws of nature and perhaps its mass and energy, exists purely by accident. This severely compromises our ability to see Hashem from the design in the beriah.

    2) Inherently contradictory – Since the aggregate phenomena of the beriah are far less likely to have “evolved” by chance than the improbability of our fine-tuned laws of nature being just the way they are, the thesis is irrational and thus has no explanatory power. Obviously it cannot be adopted as a rational approach to reconcile the Torah with Science.

    3) The pesukim refer to an awareness of Hashem and His qualities that is gained via direct study of the beriah, not abstract indirect methods.

    I can’t think of any other points which relate directly to this thread but if I do I’ll let you know.

    I await your reactions to these three points.

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  56. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Me: But this is meaningless. If everything after the laws is by chance, then man may very well not have appeared on the scene. You don’t need the presence of man, or any of the phenomena of the universe per se, in order to possess a non-chaotic universe. You can have an ordered universe and not have what we have today. What unavoidably emerges from your thesis is that the universe as we have it today is pure accident!

    RNS: And is there any greater example of hashgachah than that?

    Theoretically speaking? Of course not. But that isn’t our issue now is it? The issue is, how can we look at the beriah and determine that it was indeed the hashgacha of Hashem that all these things evolved? After all, they can all be rationally explained by chance naturalistic processes according to you.

    I could use the same argument back at you. If everything after creation is by chance (from a scientific perspective), then the State of Israel may very well not have appeared on the scene. You don’t need the presence of the State of Israel, or any of its astounding military victories per se, in order to possess a non-chaotic universe. You can have an ordered universe and not have what we have today. What unavoidably emerges from your thesis is that the State of Israel as we have it today and its military victories are pure accident!

    You just flew five miles over my head. How can you possibly use this argument against me? I am surrounded by billions of non-chance phenomena wherever I look which teaches me to be aware of Hashem’s presence directly from the beriah. Since I constantly see Hashem’s direct involvement in the origins of all of the phenomena around me, it isn’t such a leap for me to then believe that Hashem is also being actively mashgiach on these phenomena (this of course is not a proof but it is a rational conclusion based on the fact that the Creator invested so much plan and purpose into every one of His creatures). But you? All you see is chance. Where do you come off saying that the phenomena of the beriah, testify to Hashem’s hashgacha? How? How does it do that? Your belief in hashgacha is a priori. You believe in the Torah so you believe in Hashem’s hashgacha. Your belief in hashgacha does not emerge from your study of the beirah inasmuch as all of the phenomena of the beriah are able to be explained by chance.

    Because the topic of evolutionary mechanisms is extremely complex - and even biologists agree that they haven't fully worked it out yet.

    Very nice. You’ve said that before. But here’s the problem. I supplied you with a simple mathematical calculation which demonstrates the high improbability of even one protein evolving. It’s no less complicated than the mathematical calculation you supplied in your book regarding the fine tuned level of strength of nuclear force in comparison to gravitational force. Surely you have the resources to demolish my calculation or at least show that it is not conclusive. You can’t just ignore it. There are plenty of anti-creationist sites on the net. Maybe they have a response? If after due diligence you determine that the mathematical odds of evolution being responsible for life on earth is indeed great, why won’t you at least consider my argument and perhaps modify your opinion re evolution? Why????

    Continued…

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  57. Fine. So you can claim that, in your opinion, my approach is incoherent (amazingly, this charge appears to have occurred to nobody else). Just as long as we're clear that there is no longer a charge that it rules out perceiving a Borei.

    If your approach is indeed incoherent, it rules out the possibility of it being adopted in any form. You can’t say that you will adopt the fortuitousness of the laws of nature and discard those of life. It’s nonsensical. Your approach does not allow the rational mind to relate, in an intellectually honest way, to the beriah as a means of Divine revelation. I know you think I’m grasping at straws and justifying my campaign etc. but it just ain’t so. I simply cannot envision your approach as satisfactory.

    I think that God is smart enough to come up with such a computer program. Don't you? Surely you don't want to reveal yourself as a bona-fide heretic!

    Actually, you should know by now that I don’t care what I am supposedly “revealed” to be. I speak my mind regardless. But of course, your comment is silly. God can come up with anything. That’s not the issue. The issue here (for the millionth time) is whether it is rational to assume that He did. If all of the phenomena of the universe can be explained via an appeal to nature, why would I then introduce the additional and unnecessary element of hashgacha? Same as the movie theater. If the reel can be explained via natural means, why would I introduce extra-special scenarios (i.e. genius programmers) to explain the movie?

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  58. You can’t say that you will adopt the fortuitousness of the laws of nature and discard those of life

    I don't. That's why YOU say I am doing, not what I say I am doing.

    >I could use the same argument back at you. If everything after creation is by chance (from a scientific perspective), then the State of Israel may very well not have appeared on the scene. You don’t need the presence of the State of Israel, or any of its astounding military victories per se, in order to possess a non-chaotic universe. You can have an ordered universe and not have what we have today. What unavoidably emerges from your thesis is that the State of Israel as we have it today and its military victories are pure accident!

    You just flew five miles over my head. How can you possibly use this argument against me? I am surrounded by billions of non-chance phenomena wherever I look which teaches me to be aware of Hashem’s presence directly from the beriah. Since I constantly see Hashem’s direct involvement in the origins of all of the phenomena around me, it isn’t such a leap for me to then believe that Hashem is also being actively mashgiach on these phenomena.


    I find this astonishing! You are saying that if you can't see the animal kingdom as being scientifically inexplicable via naturalistic processes, then your knowledge of God would not suffice to enable you to see the fortunes of the Jewish People and the State of Israel as providential. Yet there are countless people who do accept evolution, and still see these things as providential. Evidently, your emunah is very weak; you are only able to perceive God's Hand if you are surrounded by supernatural phenomena!

    I think that I asked you the following already, but you didn't answer: What about the formation of stars and planets? Can that be explained naturalistically? Do you consider it theologically problematic if it is?

    The issue is, how can we look at the beriah and determine that it was indeed the hashgacha of Hashem that all these things evolved? After all, they can all be rationally explained by chance naturalistic processes according to you.

    I've answered this many times here, as well as in my book. It's that the end result is so extraordinary. That's the same reason why I can see God's Hand in the fortunes of the Jewish people, even though there are naturalistic processes involved.

    You know, I really think that we have gotten to the core of the issue here. You are incapable of perceiving God in naturalistic processes unless you have an abundance of scientifically inexplicable phenomena all around you to prop yourself up. You remind me of certain Israeli sephardim, and chassidim, who need miracle stories about their rabbis in order to respect them.

    With regard to our mashal of the animated movie - you've changed the mashal. We're not talking about whether the reel can be explained via natural means - we're talking about whether each frame was separately created by an animator, or whether a programmer devised a program which could construct the frames from a storyline and character description (and in fact, such programs do exist). You're claiming that you could only see the story as planned if the frames are clearly separately animated (created). I claim that if the story is very special, I could see it as planned even if the frames were produced via a program.

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  59. By the way, Rambam was also guilty of trying to remove direct, obvious evidence of God:

    "…Our efforts, and the efforts of select individuals, are in contrast to the efforts of the masses. For with the masses who are people of the Torah, that which is beloved to them and tasty to their folly is that they should place Torah and rational thinking as two opposite extremes, and will derive everything impossible as distinct from that which is reasonable, and they say that it is a miracle, and they flee from something being in accordance with natural law, whether with something recounted from past events, with something that is in the present, or with something which is said to happen in the future. But we shall endeavor to integrate the Torah with rational thought, leading events according to the natural order wherever possible; only with something that is clarified to be a miracle and cannot be otherwise explained at all will we say that it is a miracle." (Treatise Concerning the Resurrection of the Dead)

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  60. Yitz:I for one have never read any of his books.

    RSC: Why not? And why are you “persuaded by science”? Have you investigated both sides exhaustively? Have you carefully weighed the arguments? If not, where is all this persuasion coming from? And if so, can you please enlighten us as to why you are so persuaded by science? I’d love to get a sample view from amongst the “plenty of orthodox believing Jews that are persuaded by the validity of the scientific community”.


    (1) You have already been provided with a healthy sample view from numerous persons right here on this forum.

    (2) I haven’t read RNS’s books because they were banned by prominent sages, although perhaps I will flaunt the ban (as RSC recommends) the next time that I happen to get down town. They don’t sell RNS’s books in my neighborhood of Har Nof.

    (3) In regard to my investigations, I have done so to my personal satisfaction and beyond, and this includes everything that you have written on this blog. Once again I emphasize that I reserve the right to evaluate evidence on my own terms and form my own judgments. My opinion is that the creationist arguments are vapid and thusly I see no value in pursuing them further than I already have. Likewise, I certainly see no value in trading arguments on this forum. It’s been done many times and the process is quite tired.

    I will take this opportunity to recommend Judgment Day -- Intelligent Design on Trial (video) and any other materials on the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case. to anyone interested in learning why “intelligent design” is not science. I side with Ken Miller and the conclusion of Judge Jones on the case. Consider me gullible, biased, brain washed etc. as you like.

    (4) Your warning borrowed from RNS about the hazards of becoming consumed by negativity is well placed. I noted it myself from his blog and I am indeed concerned. Unfortunately, this forum has proven to be an inappropriate venue for delving into this area. I have found that honest sharing here is not compatible with civil discourse. The only recourse is to censor myself and simply refrain from posting here.

    Instead, I need to focus on the positive. For example to celebrate the gift of reason and science. Of being the beneficiary of a 13 billion + year old universe that was created for my benefit. I need to contemplate the awesome opportunities and requisite responsibilities that come with this.

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  61. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I find this astonishing! You are saying that if you can't see the animal kingdom as being scientifically inexplicable via naturalistic processes, then your knowledge of God would not suffice to enable you to see the fortunes of the Jewish People and the State of Israel as providential.

    Yeah. If you put it like that, I would find it astonishing too. Of course this is not true. Somehow you keep on taking your eye off the ball. There are two batei medrash, remember? The knowledge of Hashem through the beis midrasho shel Moshe Rabbeinu certainly does suffice as a source for the foundation of hashgachaso Yisbarach. But we’re not talking about that, are we? We’re talking about seeing Hashem purely from a study of the beriah sans the Torah. We start off without any assumptions and attempt to draw conclusions from a study of the phenomena of the beriah, just as Avraham Avinu did.

    By the way, a study of the beriah does not just mean a study of the animal kingdom i.e. life although this is by far the most important and convincing study. It means all of the phenomena of the beriah such as rain, snow, wool, the earth, the great bodies of water etc. etc.

    Yet there are countless people who do accept evolution, and still see these things as providential. Evidently, your emunah is very weak; you are only able to perceive God's Hand if you are surrounded by supernatural phenomena!

    No. My emunah is stronger than theirs because I can see Providence not only because of my a priori belief in Hashem but because the very testimony of my eyes tells me to. In contrast, they need to fight the testimony of their eyes which says that all of the wonderfully complex and purposeful phenomena of the beriah can be understood as evolving via chance random naturalistic processes and yet believe that somehow Hashem is actively behind everything and not the inexorable forces of nature.

    I think that I asked you the following already, but you didn't answer: What about the formation of stars and planets? Can that be explained naturalistically? Do you consider it theologically problematic if it is?

    I’m not sure where you’re going with this but here’s my “official statement” re the beriah. I believe that a concerted study of all of the phenomena of the beriah reveals the trappings of intelligent design, plan and purpose and thus, to the unbiased observer, can bring one to awareness, and the love and fear of Hashem. Amongst the various phenomena which are apparent in the universe, a study of the phenomena of life is the most efficacious form of this pursuit.

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  62. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I've answered this many times here, as well as in my book. It's that the end result is so extraordinary. That's the same reason why I can see God's Hand in the fortunes of the Jewish people, even though there are naturalistic processes involved.

    You haven’t answered it. That’s the point. Each time you claim that the end result is so extraordinary, I question this conclusion by pointing out that things which can be understood as evolving via chance naturalistic processes are not extraordinary. And I point out that the fortuitous laws of nature, in and of themselves, are not responsible for the world as we see it but rather set the arena of possibility, nothing more. The possibilities are infinite ergo our world is chance! But you blithely go along your way ignoring my counter-argument and make pretend the issue is already solved.

    As far as your reference to the fortunes of the Jewish people, this is a different story. As I will be explaining in my post about Hashgacha, there are three levels of hashgacha. The first is the study of the natural phenomena of the beriah, which occur every day and are guided by ostensibly random naturalistic processes. This is the most difficult one to achieve and is the one which forms the basis of our avodah in achieving an awareness of Hashem’s administration of our affairs.

    The next two levels are revelations of Hashem’s hashgacha which do not come about via a study of the beriah but rather are given to us, in most cases, as a reward, or perhaps a natural outcome, of the level of awareness we already reached via out initial Avodah. The fortunes of klal Yisrael is an example of this. Even someone who believes entirely in random naturalistic processes “must’ admit that the survival of our nation is miraculous. You know why? Because the very odds of our survival are so remote that it is irrational to attribute it to anything but the hand of the Divine in the background. This is what the neis of Purim represents. In this case, it is the very laws of nature themselves which dictate that the occurrence cannot be rationally understood as naturalistic. For example, if somebody won the million dollar lottery five times in a row, you could be sure the police would be at his door.

    The third level of hashgacha is open miracles such as the ones preformed in Egypt. All this will be explained in my post bi’ezras Hashem.

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  63. Rabbi Slifkin,

    You know, I really think that we have gotten to the core of the issue here. You are incapable of perceiving God in naturalistic processes unless you have an abundance of scientifically inexplicable phenomena all around you to prop yourself up.

    This caricature of my position is nothing more than a facile formulation specifically designed to make light of your opponent while simultaneously misdirecting the focus of his criticism of your position. I’ve been in the game a bit too long to allow such nonsense to fly. If you wish to characterize my position, here’s the proper way to do it.

    If the phenomena of the beriah can reasonably be understood as evolving over billions of years via chance naturalistic processes, then a study of the beriah,, exclusive of any other study, is incapable of yielding the rational conclusion that Hashem is implicated in their existence, much less their ongoing government.

    Now go ahead and draw whatever conclusions you wish from this statement. But please, do me a favor. Don’t mischaracterize my view. It’s a waste of time, both for you and me, when I have to repeat myself a thousand times.

    You remind me of certain Israeli sephardim, and chassidim, who need miracle stories about their rabbis in order to respect them.

    Don’t make fun of these people. To speak positively of tzadikim, to aggrandize them and to elevate them is a great mitzvah. The pasuk, in Tehilim states “Imru tzadik” aggrandize a tzadik! When people get together and say over sipurei tzadikim, the Shechina rests amongst them! This is, and always has been, a staple of popular Jewish enterprise. Unfortunately, I think your ongoing and strident mission to demonstrate the fallibility of Chazal – regardless of your misguided notion re the purity of your motives – has caused you to become insensitive to certain mainstream Jewish customs. You pride yourself on being a rationalist and no doubt rationalism is the foundation of the Jewish religion. But you’ve gone too far. Instead of looking at these people with a kindly eye, you automatically gravitate to the negative element which might sometimes exist in such gatherings. I also understand the issues you broach but I had a proper training in hashkafa so whenever I happen to be in the company of people relating sipurei tzadikim, I listen respectfully and admire them for their attempts to elevate tzadikim.

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  64. Each time you claim that the end result is so extraordinary, I question this conclusion by pointing out that things which can be understood as evolving via chance naturalistic processes are not extraordinary. And I point out that the fortuitous laws of nature, in and of themselves, are not responsible for the world as we see it but rather set the arena of possibility, nothing more. The possibilities are infinite ergo our world is chance!

    It's probably a waste of time, but let me try to explain it one last time.

    Of all possible universes, ours is very special - because it has planetary systems, life, diversity of life, and intelligent life. Because 99.99999999999999999% of universes would not feature any of this, our universe is extraordinary.

    These things are only possible because the laws of nature are what they are. Hence, looking at the world around us reinforced emunah in a Borei.

    Now, you point out that even given such laws of nature, the end result is not necessarily intelligent life. That is correct. But, first of all, this has nothing to do with the first point, namely, that the extraordinary nature of our universe (planetary systems, life, diversity, intelligence) is only possible as a result of extraordinary laws of nature, which points to a Borei. The only thing that the "accidental," circumstantial nature of evolution could conceivably threaten is hashgachah.

    But it doesn't threaten hashgachah either. Because, since the end result is the human brain - the most complex entity in the universe - this shows that there was a plan all along. Just like the end result of Purim story - a story which, on a physical level, involved nothing more than chance and accidents - reveals that there was a plan all along.

    Incidentally, you dodged my question about the formation of stars and planets. All you said was that "amongst the various phenomena which are apparent in the universe, a study of the phenomena of life is the most efficacious form of this pursuit." That doesn't answer my question. Can there or can there not be a naturalistic explanation of how stars and planets develop? Please answer, don't dodge.

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  65. Rabbi Slifkin,

    It's probably a waste of time, but let me try to explain it one last time.

    Of all possible universes, ours is very special - because it has planetary systems, life, diversity of life, and intelligent life. Because 99.99999999999999999% of universes would not feature any of this, our universe is extraordinary.


    A waste of time? On the contrary, this is precisely what I’ve wanted to hear from you. I’m not sure how you’ve arrived at your mathematical calculation above but for the time being, I accept! So, the point is that when we consider the phenomena of our universe, in and of themselves, they are extremely fortuitous. They simply couldn’t be comprehended to exist naturally in “99 and a decimal point with 17 nines following it” other scenarios. This makes them extraordinary. I agree!

    So now I ask you: If “life, and intelligent life” is so extraordinary, doesn’t that mean that its development could not conceivably be left to random chance processes like biological evolution? What principled distinction do you possess for distinguishing between the laws of nature themselves, which you admittedly attribute to direct Divine Creation due to their improbability, and the extremely extraordinary (i.e. improbable by the remainder of a factor of 99 and a decimal point followed by 17 nines) phenomena of life which is somehow not seen by you as being a result of direct Divine creation?

    These things are only possible because the laws of nature are what they are.

    That’s true. But in and of itself, it is meaningless. Since these laws could just as easily have produced the remainder of 99.99999999999999999% (i.e. one quadrillion, or, one thousand trillion, if you can fathom such a number) other universes without these phenomena, their fortuitous makeup, in and of itself, doesn’t demonstrate that the phenomena of the universe are traceable to Divine Design. It is only when we understand that the phenomena of the universe, in and of themselves, are fantastic and testify to a boreh that we can then trace back their origins and recognize that in addition to the improbability of the phenomena themselves, their underlying principles are also fantastic.

    For you to grasp what I am saying, let’s do a mind experiment. Let’s make pretend that the universe as we know it resulted in one of the other quadrillion ways the laws of nature allow for. The universe is ordered, but intelligence doesn’t exist and life also doesn’t exist. Let’s say you and I were somehow able to view this universe – one possibility out of one quadrillion possibilities; would you wax philosophic about how fortuitous the laws of that universe were? No. Why? Because the phenomena in that universe are not extraordinary. But what happened? The fortuitousness of the laws of that universe is exactly the same as the fortuitousness of the laws of our current universe?

    Do you understand the problem???
    This debate is not going in the direction I would have liked. This complicated argumentation makes it seem like my issue with your approaches is abstract and picayune when in fact it is simple common sense…

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  66. Hence, looking at the world around us reinforced emunah in a Borei.

    Rabbi Slifkin, on a personal note, I’d like you to know that our current debate is causing me serious grief. You are forcing me to denounce a position which claims to see emunah in a Borei from the beriah and this is certainly not my intention. Furthermore, it is not my intention to imply that you personally do not utilize the beriah as a means of inspiring your emunah. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep this up. You might “win” by default…

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  67. Now, you point out that even given such laws of nature, the end result is not necessarily intelligent life. That is correct. But, first of all, this has nothing to do with the first point, namely, that the extraordinary nature of our universe (planetary systems, life, diversity, intelligence) is only possible as a result of extraordinary laws of nature, which points to a Borei.

    It has everything to do with it. Since these laws can just as easily accommodate an endless number of ordered universes without these phenomena, it is only the fact that our phenomena are indeed extraordinary that gives the fortuitousness of the laws any significance. And our phenomena can only be considered extraordinary if they are seen as a manifestation of intelligent design rather than chance naturalistic processes.

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  68. Incidentally, you dodged my question about the formation of stars and planets. All you said was that "amongst the various phenomena which are apparent in the universe, a study of the phenomena of life is the most efficacious form of this pursuit." That doesn't answer my question. Can there or can there not be a naturalistic explanation of how stars and planets develop? Please answer, don't dodge.

    Well, you highlighted the wrong part of my statement. Why did you skip over the first sentence? It reads: “I believe that a concerted study of all of the phenomena of the beriah reveals the trappings of intelligent design, plan and purpose and thus, to the unbiased observer, can bring one to awareness, and the love and fear of Hashem.”
    This obviously includes star formation and galaxy formation. But before you go running off on a tangent make sure you take my statement within context. I believe that all of the phenomena of the beriah testify to Hashem. I wouldn’t pick and choose certain ones, for the numerous reasons I’ve been supplying you.

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  69. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  70. Looks like my comments are going into spam. גם זה לטובה!

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  71. Rabbi Coffer, you appear to have entirely misunderstood my book and my position.

    What principled distinction do you possess for distinguishing between the laws of nature themselves, which you admittedly attribute to direct Divine Creation due to their improbability, and the extremely extraordinary (i.e. improbable by the remainder of a factor of 99 and a decimal point followed by 17 nines) phenomena of life which is somehow not seen by you as being a result of direct Divine creation?

    I did NOT say that, given the laws of nature that we have, the possibility of evolution happening is 99.9% recurring improbable!

    What I said was that, given all possible different universes with different laws of nature, ours (in that it has laws which allow for planetary systems, life, diversity and intelligence) is 99.9% recurring improbable!

    Since these laws can just as easily accommodate an endless number of ordered universes without these phenomena, it is only the fact that our phenomena are indeed extraordinary that gives the fortuitousness of the laws any significance. And our phenomena can only be considered extraordinary if they are seen as a manifestation of intelligent design rather than chance naturalistic processes.

    This makes no sense at all. If, even given the initial parameters of the universe and laws of nature, life is not inevitable, then why does life only point towards design if it is visibly and overtly designed? You have never addressed this point. If, even given the extraordinary initial parameters of the universe and laws of nature (which alone point to a Creator, as you agree), life and diversity and intelligence is still very unlikely (and note that I am not at all certain that this is the case), then would not the fact of the existence of life and diversity and intelligence attest that God did not only set up these extraordinary initial laws and parameters, but also ensured that they would have these results?
    (Just as the fortuitousness of the fate of the Jewish People, in the Purim story and in modern times, attests to God.)

    “I believe that a concerted study of all of the phenomena of the beriah reveals the trappings of intelligent design, plan and purpose and thus, to the unbiased observer, can bring one to awareness, and the love and fear of Hashem.” This obviously includes star formation and galaxy formation.

    You're still being ambiguous. Please be clear. Can there or can there not be a naturalistic explanation of how stars and planets develop? Please answer clearly, don't obfuscate.

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  72. RSC: The simplest protein is composed of 50 amino acids with some that are composed of thousands. If even one amino acid is removed, replaced or added into the structure of a protein, it would result in a totally useless molecular mass.

    The irreducible complexity argument is old ground. Biochemist and ID advocate Michael Behe coined the term in his book Darwin's Black Box in 2006. Furthermore, there already exists a plethora of articles explaining the fallacies of the argument. Therefore the question posed by RSC to RNS is not interesting.

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  73. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I did NOT say that, given the laws of nature that we have, the possibility of evolution happening is 99.9% recurring improbable!

    I didn’t say that you said that. What I said was that (apparently) you feel that the fact that the phenomena of our world emerged from nothing but mass, energy and our current laws of nature is extraordinary. You wrote: “Of all possible universes, (by this I assume you mean scenarios of universes which are ordered and possess similar laws of nature such as our own) ours is very special - because it has planetary systems, life, diversity of life, and intelligent life. Because 99.99999999999999999% of universes would not feature any of this, our universe is extraordinary.” (meaning that even taking the fundamental forces of our universe for granted, the phenomena delineated above would have an infinitesimally small probability of existing)

    Your further comments would seem to indicate that I misunderstood you. Please read on.

    What I said was that, given all possible different universes with different laws of nature, ours (in that it has laws which allow for planetary systems, life, diversity and intelligence) is 99.9% recurring improbable!

    Honestly, I think you are confused. That can’t, be what you meant. If you really want to take all possibilities of universes, with different laws of nature, into consideration, then the number is infinite. This eliminates the possibility of invoking percentages of recurring improbabilities. But fine. I take you at your word. So, in order to do this, we need to go step by step. I am going to make an honest effort to understand your position and if I’m wrong, I’ll admit it. But you need to respond clearly to my questions in order for this exercise to possess any relevance. Ok. Let’s go.

    Step 1
    Do you believe that the laws of our universe must invariably result in the phenomena of our universe? To be more precise, do you believe that mass/energy, time, space, and the universal forces of gravitation, electromagnetism the small nuclear force and the large nuclear force, with their attendant constants, will inevitably culminate in the ordered formation of stars, galaxies, life and intelligence? If you do, do you have anything even resembling scientific evidence to support your contention?

    As soon as you respond to this step, I will continue with the next step.

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  74. This makes no sense at all. If, even given the initial parameters of the universe and laws of nature, life is not inevitable, then why does life only point towards design if it is visibly and overtly designed? You have never addressed this point. If, even given the extraordinary initial parameters of the universe and laws of nature (which alone point to a Creator, as you agree), life and diversity and intelligence is still very unlikely (and note that I am not at all certain that this is the case), then would not the fact of the existence of life and diversity and intelligence attest that God did not only set up these extraordinary initial laws and parameters, but also ensured that they would have these results?

    Rabbi Slifkin, nice argument! You almost had me convinced. But ultimately your argument fails. Why? Because you snuck in a false premise. You wrote: “If, even given the extraordinary initial parameters of the universe and laws of nature (which alone point to a Creator, as you agree)”

    I don’t agree. At least not on your terms. By “alone” you mean even if the same line of reasoning is ignored when considering other things, such as life. By “alone” I mean assuming the same line of reasoning could theoretically be applied to all of the phenomena of the universe. If you adopt my position – which I feel is the only rational one to adopt - the rest of your argument falls apart. Why? Because if you ignore God from life, what chance do you have of seeing Him from the laws of nature? None.

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  75. Rabbi Slifkin,

    You're still being ambiguous. Please be clear. Can there or can there not be a naturalistic explanation of how stars and planets develop? Please answer clearly, don't obfuscate.

    You’re confusing obfuscation with circumspection. I don’t want you to misinterpret my words so I am being cautious. What do you mean by “Can there be”? According to scientists, yes, there can be and indeed there is. According to the Torah, stars formed rapidly about 6k years ago meaning that the stars didn’t develop naturally. So what do you want to know? If theoretically speaking, according to the Torah’s view, it would be possible for stars to form naturalistically? Is that your question? And if so, why are you asking?

    Against my better judgment, I will respond by saying that theoretically I don’t see any issues with adopting the idea that based on the current laws of nature, star formation is possible.

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  76. Yitz,

    (2) I haven’t read RNS’s books because they were banned by prominent sages, although perhaps I will flaunt the ban (as RSC recommends)

    I do not recommend that! Although RNS’s books have a lot of good things in them, his personal approaches are seriously flawed. Any recommendations I may have made about certain parts of his books were to people who already bought them. If you are accustomed to adhering to the counsel of the prominent Israeli sages, you would be foolish to disregard it in this case.

    The irreducible complexity argument is old ground.

    What’s wrong with “old ground”? The Torah is also old. Either present a counter argument or drop out of the race. Anything else is just a waste of time for our readers. Incidentally, my argument is not from irreducible complexity. It’s a straight forward mathematical argument based on statistical improbabilities.

    Furthermore, there already exists a plethora of articles explaining the fallacies of the argument.

    Yes. Which I am now convinced you have no way of assessing whatsoever. Your sole interest lies in characterizing things rather than trying to understand them. Incidentally, there are also a plethora of articles about how the world came into initial existence without God. Presumably you would reject this “plethora”. Oh, don’t forget another plethora you would probably reject. There are a plethora of articles clearly demonstrating that the father the son and the holy spirit are some kind of godhead.

    Don’t be impressed by numbers, especially articles written for popular consumption. Do your research. If you are prepared to make an effort to understand the issues, your efforts will be rewarded and you will succeed.

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  77. You wrote: “Of all possible universes, (by this I assume you mean scenarios of universes which are ordered and possess similar laws of nature such as our own)

    No, I didn't mean that at all. I see that you completely misunderstood me.

    do you believe that mass/energy, time, space, and the universal forces of gravitation, electromagnetism the small nuclear force and the large nuclear force, with their attendant constants, will inevitably culminate in the ordered formation of stars, galaxies, life and intelligence?

    I have no idea. Though it doesn't sound likely.

    if you ignore God from life, what chance do you have of seeing Him from the laws of nature? None.

    And yet there are many people who, like me, believe that there are naturalistic explanations for how life evolved, and yet still perceive God. So clearly there is still a significant chance of seeing Him from the laws of nature, even if you consider such people to be irrational. (Actually, they just disagree with you as to whether evolution is scientifically plausible.) In any case, you don't have any objection to us perceiving God from the laws of nature; you just feel that we are inconsistent in not ALSO seeing His direct hand in the animal kingdom.

    And so I ask you again: IF, even given the extraordinary initial parameters of the universe and laws of nature, nevertheless life and diversity and intelligence is still very unlikely, then would not the fact of the existence of life and diversity and intelligence attest that God did not only set up these extraordinary initial laws and parameters, but also ensured that they would have these results?

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  78. (Actually, they just disagree with you as to whether evolution is scientifically plausible.)

    This is what it comes down to.

    This complicated argumentation makes it seem like my issue with your approaches is abstract and picayune when in fact it is simple common sense…
    Indeed it is: your issue is Daas Torah. That's why you believe what you do regarding evolution.

    This is an argument Rabbi Slifkin can understand. The head bloggers here should just say it straight out: None of the intellectual justifications we have are really important; the important thing is that we differ from Rabbi Slifkin on how rabbinic authority works.

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  79. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Me: do you believe that mass/energy, time, space, and the universal forces of gravitation, electromagnetism the small nuclear force and the large nuclear force, with their attendant constants, will inevitably culminate in the ordered formation of stars, galaxies, life and intelligence?

    RNS: I have no idea. Though it doesn't sound likely

    Excellent. I agree. Let’s move on to the next step.

    Step 2

    Based on Step 1, we can infer that there are many different options, or scenarios, for our universe. Some might have stars, some not. Some might have life, some not. Some might have intelligence, some not. Some might have a combination of these phenomena in varying degrees. There are a very large number of possibilities.

    Do you agree?

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  80. David,

    shtika kihoda'ah.

    Don’t assume that. I respond to things I personally feel require responding to. I didn’t see anything substantial in your comments that should illicit a response from me. However, since you seem to be insisting that I respond, I will accommodate your request.

    (Actually, they just disagree with you as to whether evolution is scientifically plausible.)

    This is what it comes down to.


    Not entirely correct but definitely one of the primary disagreements.

    This complicated argumentation makes it seem like my issue with your approaches is abstract and picayune when in fact it is simple common sense…

    Indeed it is: your issue is Daas Torah. That's why you believe what you do regarding evolution.


    This contradicts what you just said and entirely ignores the actual details of Rabbi Slifkin and my debate. Furthermore, it happens to be false. I have been an anti-evolutionist for close to thirty years now, long before the public “daas torah” statements were issued five years ago.

    This is an argument Rabbi Slifkin can understand. The head bloggers here should just say it straight out: None of the intellectual justifications we have are really important; the important thing is that we differ from Rabbi Slifkin on how rabbinic authority works.

    Well, in a sense you are correct. We do differ with Rabbi Slifkin regarding rabbinical authority but our differences pertain to the authority of Chazal, not current gedolei torah. Not once (that I can remember) have any of the authors contended with Rabbi Slifkin’s shittos by appealing exclusively to the authority of current gedolei torah.

    There’s something you should know David. Although all of the authors on this Blog are what you would refer to as Chareidim, we are all independent-minded individuals who arrive at our conclusions via rational inquiry coupled with exhaustive research and investigation of the sources, both Torah and, lihavdil, science. If you don’t understand this, or you don’t accept this, you are wasting your time reading this blog.

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  81. This contradicts what you just said
    Wrong. The reason you don't believe evolution is scientifically plausible is because of Daas Torah.
    Furthermore, it happens to be false. I have been an anti-evolutionist for close to thirty years now, long before the public “daas torah” statements were issued five years ago.

    Who said anything about "the public" daas torah?

    Reb Moshe paskined on evolution in 1982. The fact that you decided you don't believe in it around that time doesn't help your case.

    I think your inquiries were informed by indoctrination through yeshiva education. Otherwise, you'd have to "believe" in evolution, since it's a pashute fact! You can prove me wrong though, just offer up a comprehensive scientific treatment of evolution which is endorsed by the blog owners here.

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  82. RSC: Any recommendations I may have made about certain parts of his books were to people who already bought them. If you are accustomed to adhering to the counsel of the prominent Israeli sages, you would be foolish to disregard it in this case.

    In any case, I admire your liberal view on the matter given the harsh words of condemnation that were written.

    Rav Moshe Shapiro Shlita says
    הם ראוים להשרף
    וחלילה לבני תורה להסתכל בהם

    Rav Ovadia Yoseph says
    כל מי שיש ברשותו מספרי איש זה אסור לו בהחלט להחזיקם בביתו

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  83. David,

    Reb Moshe paskined on evolution in 1982. The fact that you decided you don't believe in it around that time doesn't help your case.

    I don’t have “a case” and if I did it wouldn’t need helping. I don’t need to defend my motives to random individuals leaving impetuous comments on my Blog. The reason I am responding is because I’d like to know which teshuva you are referring to?

    I think your inquiries were informed by indoctrination through yeshiva education.

    So? Why is what you think about me relevant in any way? Do you actually believe that your personal opinion regarding an individual you’ve never met and know nothing about carries any weight? Comments like this are out of place on a blog like this. The authors of this blog adhere to reasoned discourse informed by objective research. If you’d like to participate, please try and formulate objective opinions about the substantive issues for the consideration of our readers. Comments which relate to the character, personality or background of the authors are strongly discouraged.

    Incidentally, not once did the topic of evolution ever come up during the course of my yeshiva education; not even once. I learned about evolution because I chose to pursue the topic. 99.9% of yeshiva boys know nothing about evolution and don’t even bother thinking about it. At least that’s the way it was in my day. Today might be different.

    Otherwise, you'd have to "believe" in evolution, since it's a pashute fact!

    Oh, really? Thanks for informing me.

    You can prove me wrong though, just offer up a comprehensive scientific treatment of evolution which is endorsed by the blog owners here

    First of all, I have no need to prove you wrong. Second of all, just on this blog alone I have written dozens, if not hundreds of comments which relate to evolutionary science and its glaring lack of evidence. You need to read a bit David. Why don’t you start with my debate with Ari back in October in the blog entry entitled Q &A. There are several dozen pages of comments containing advanced scientific discourse in the field of evolution. Let me know what you think…

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  84. Which I am now convinced you have no way of assessing whatsoever. Your sole interest lies in characterizing things rather than trying to understand them.

    No. Rather, we have different epistemologies. You sir, insist that only your epistemology is valid. Again, I respectfully and vociferously disagree.

    RSC: Incidentally, my argument is not from irreducible complexity. It’s a straight forward mathematical argument based on statistical improbabilities.

    I frankly claim no expertise on the issue and thus I could well be confused about your protein example. You say that the simplest useful protein is composed of 50 amino acids that all most occur in an exact sequence. If we were to say that there exist only two types of amino acids (for simplicity sake), then the probability of chance occurrence would be 1/2^50 = 1/ (1.12589991 × 10^15), which is clearly statistically impossible even granted my false assumption for the sake of simplicity.

    Of course, this fact has not evaded the biologists. Rather, they suggest that the protein has evolved over a course of a long period of time and thus the formation is indeed not random. The ID advocates say this is impossible.

    Here is the definition of irreducible complexity that I picked up: Certain biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler, or "less complete" predecessors, through natural selection acting upon a series of advantageous naturally-occurring, chance mutations.

    I was (mis)understanding the thrust of your protein argument to be based on the premise that the simple 50 amino-acid protein could not have naturally evolved from predecessor proteins, and this fits the claim squarely into the definition of irreducible complexity.

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  85. Yitz,

    No. Rather, we have different epistemologies. You sir, insist that only your epistemology is valid. Again, I respectfully and vociferously disagree.

    You misunderstand me Yitz. I don’t insist that my “epistemology” is the only valid one. But in order for a discussion to possess any semblance of rationality, both parties must be operating under certain given assumptions, or premises. If, for instance, it would become clear to me that your personal epistemology was defined by, say, metaphysical solipsism, I would cease communicating with you. Why? Because our discussions would lack the common intellectual ground rational discourse presumes.

    I’m not sure which epistemic system you have adopted and precisely why you feel it is different than mine but let’s make this easy. I’ll outline the parameters of my system in detail. Assuming you accept them, you will in turn commit to cease appealing to epistemology and focus exclusively on the substantial material. If you do not accept them, then you and I will hash out our differences until we reach common ground upon which you will commit to cease appealing to epistemology and focus exclusively on the substantial material. If ultimately we do not achieve common epistemic ground, then I would respectfully enjoin you to explain to me the relevance of any further communication between us.

    OK. Let’s begin. I consider myself a rationalist. By this I mean that my attitudes, my outlook, my very weltanschauung, are informed, first and foremost, by rationality. Rationality is a difficult concept to define but here’s my definition: something which appeals to the intuitive human intellect. Something may be logically defensible, such as metaphysical solipsism, but human intellect intuitively rejects it as absurd. In the current blog entry, I provided another example from green goblins bowling in the attic.

    Now, with regards to our current issue, we must agree, first and foremost, to be rational. Second, we must agree on a mutually acceptable system of objective investigation, one which possesses the highest likelihood of yielding rational and true conclusions.

    When it comes to investigating apparent discrepancies between science and Torah, I think it is reasonable to insist that both systems must be investigated thoroughly before reaching any conclusions. The verses of the Torah along with their massoretic interpretation seem to be quite clear. I don’t think anyone would contest this. I wrote a paper with over 35 Torah sources supporting this view. If it makes any difference to you, Rabbi Slifkin would not contest the fact that our classical Torah tradition does indeed support a young universe created suddenly via meta-natural fiat.

    So what’s left? An investigation of the scientific view. Here’s where things get tricky. Which method of investigation can be utilized that satisfies the parameters of objectivity and rationality and is mutually acceptable to us both? I propose the following: Let’s use the Scientific Method. It involves empirical observation combined with rigorous experimentation, transparency, publication, objective duplication of experimentation, further objective experimentation under varying conditions, and then, finally, adoption. Anything which has passed this test is acceptable to us. Anything which does not needs to be questioned. Not rejected, just questioned and discussed.

    This is my “epistemology”. Is it acceptable to you?

    If yes, gevaldic! If not, kindly modify my parameters to your specifications and submit for my perusal. Yitz, let’s try and develop a common frame of reference between us so we can talk to each other rather than past each other.

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  86. You quoted my "I think your inquiries were informed by indoctrination through yeshiva education" line and asked how I could possibly know about you. That was answered in the context, where I was dan lekav schus that the only way you could possibly maintain such a silly anti-evolution belief was via indoctrination.
    Context:
    I think your inquiries were informed by indoctrination through yeshiva education. Otherwise, you'd have to "believe" in evolution, since it's a pashute fact! You can prove me wrong though, just offer up a comprehensive scientific treatment of evolution which is endorsed by the blog owners here.

    I see also that the education taught you, your cohorts, and Rabbi Miller how to think:
    Rationality is a difficult concept to define but here’s my definition: something which appeals to the intuitive human intellect.
    If that's rationalism, I think you're going to find that non-Haredi Jewish rationalists are generally on a very different epistemological plane than you. You actually define rationalism via a fallacious intuition. Wow, just wow.

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  87. Yitz –

    I frankly claim no expertise on the issue and thus I could well be confused about your protein example. You say that the simplest useful protein is composed of 50 amino acids that all most occur in an exact sequence. If we were to say that there exist only two types of amino acids (for simplicity sake), then the probability of chance occurrence would be 1/2^50 = 1/ (1.12589991 × 10^15), which is clearly statistically impossible even granted my false assumption for the sake of simplicity.

    Of course, this fact has not evaded the biologists. Rather, they suggest that the protein has evolved over a course of a long period of time and thus the formation is indeed not random. The ID advocates say this is impossible.


    Yitz, you made my night! You are now addressing the issues directly. Regardless of the outcome of this interchange, I am gratified that this blog has caused you to think seriously about the issues! Please continue down this road. Here’s my response.

    You’ve made a simple mathematical calculation for the probability of a protein evolving by chance. Your calculation is based on a variety of two amino acids in a numerical sequence of 50. You conclude that such a number is considered statistically impossible. But now do the calculation with a protein which has 20 different types of amino acids containing a sequence of thirty five thousand amino acids. Titin. That’s the name of the protein. And it is found in abundance in animal life. It is responsible for the elasticity of your muscles. Also, don’t forget that there are about fifty thousand different types of proteins in the human body. So Yitz, let’s see you do the calculation now! Do you think that 13.7 billion years is enough time for even the simplest protein to evolve? (Actually, 4.5 billon years, the purported age of the earth). Biologists throw time at you because it’s free. They can say whatever they want. Don’t be fooled by these supposed periods of time. They don’t even begin to account for the presence of the simplest protein. Just do the math…

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  88. David,

    Me: Rationality is a difficult concept to define but here’s my definition: something which appeals to the intuitive human intellect.

    You: If that's rationalism, I think you're going to find that non-Haredi Jewish rationalists are generally on a very different epistemological plane than you. You actually define rationalism via a fallacious intuition.

    Fallacious intuition? The intellectual intuition of humans is fallacious? Do you have any other objective means of defining rationality? Is it perhaps “whatever makes sense to David?” Yes, I think that’s it. That’s an objective definition. I’m glad we cleared that up…

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  89. The intellectual intuition of humans is fallacious?
    Pashut. To give the most obvious example, quantum mechanics are counterintuitive.

    Btw, 2 minutes after ur question, Professor Myers put up an answer. Hashgacha!

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/12/theres_plenty_of_time_for_evol.php

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  90. David,

    Me: The intellectual intuition of humans is fallacious?

    You: Pashut. To give the most obvious example, quantum mechanics are counterintuitive.

    There’s nothing “pashut” about it. Quantum mechanics has been verified to an incredible degree of accuracy. In fact, it’s never been disproved, not even in one instance. This gives us humans every rational reason to adopt it despite our intuitions. In other words, it appeals to the intuitive human intellect to adopt principles which seem incomprehensible if said principles are empirically demonstrated to exist.

    Incidentally, the Cosmological Argument for the existence of a Divine Being operates on the same premises…

    Btw, 2 minutes after ur question, Professor Myers put up an answer. Hashgacha!

    Hashgacha? Oh boy… Forget epistemology. Ontology is more like it. You and I live in different universes.

    Myers didn’t answer a thing! He upchucked on the internet, that’s about it. You wouldn’t actually be interested in discussing his comments, would you? I will gladly show you the idiotic nature of his post. Or are you just interested in dropping a bunch of one-liners?

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  91. This gives us humans every rational reason to adopt it despite our intuitions. In other words, it appeals to the intuitive human intellect to adopt principles which seem incomprehensible if said principles are empirically demonstrated to exist.
    Now, you've contradicted yourself.

    Sure, do tell me the flaws in Ewens & Wilf.

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  92. David,

    Me: This gives us humans every rational reason to adopt it despite our intuitions. In other words, it appeals to the intuitive human intellect to adopt principles which seem incomprehensible if said principles are empirically demonstrated to exist.

    You: Now, you've contradicted yourself.

    In your opinion. It would be nice if you actually demonstrated your contentions every once in a while…

    Sure, do tell me the flaws in Ewens & Wilf.

    You initiated the criticism. Do tell the flaw in my mathematical calculation for the improbability of evolution. Use Myer’s characterization of the “creationist argument” and make your case here. I will then respond. I don’t want to argue with a ghost…

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  93. In your opinion. It would be nice if you actually demonstrated your contentions every once in a while…
    I thought the contradiction obvious. You also didn't demonstrate your contentions when you accused me of contradicting myself, sir.

    Do tell the flaw in my mathematical calculation for the improbability of evolution. Use Myer’s characterization of the “creationist argument” and make your case here.
    Myers is quoting Ewen and Wilf, so I'll take their characterization instead, alongside the rebuttal:

    When trials are carried out sequentially over
    time, an exponentially large number of trials (of order KL) would be needed in order to carry
    out the complete transformation, and from this some have concluded that the evolution-by-
    mutation paradigm doesn’t work because of lack of time. But this argument in effect assumes an “in series” rather than a more correct “in par-
    allel” evolutionary process.If a superior gene for (say) eye function has become fixed ina population, it is not thrown out when a superior gene for (say) liver function becomes
    fixed. Evolution is an “in parallel” process, with beneficial mutations at one gene locus
    being retained after they become fixed in a population while beneficial mutations at other
    loci become fixed. In fact this statement is essentially the principle of natural selection.

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  94. Since you thought Professor Myers' post is stupid, I decided that the above probably would not be clear to you. So I will quote Myers' explanation of how the above applies to proteins specifically and then explain for you.

    Professor Myers:
    "[Evolution} works in parallel, changing and testing each variant simultaneously in many individuals, and then selection for the most favorable subset of changes latches them in place, making the matching letters more likely to be fixed. . . To put some representative numbers on it, imagine a protein that is 300 amino acids long, made up of 20 possible amino acids, and I'm going to ask you to guess the sequence. Under the creationist model, you wouldn't even want to play the game — it would take you on the order of 20300 trials to hit that one specific arrangement of amino acids. On the other hand, if you took a wild guess, writing down a random 300 amino acids, and I then told you which amino acids in which position were correct, you'd be able to progressively work out the exact sequence in only 20 log 300 trials, or around 50 guesses."

    So what we're dealing is guided natural selection based on "clues" as to what works, not based on a ridiculous amount of fortuitousness (coincidences), as you were telling Yitz.

    This aspect of natural selection is well known. Richard Dawkins writes about it. Kenneth Miller writes about it. Everybody who explains evolution to the populace writes about it.

    There are three possibilities here. The first is that you're a moron and in your pursuit of exploring evolution didn't understand the main aspects of the mechanism. The second is that you're intentionally lying in order to bring people to your position. The third is that you only don't believe in evolution because you feel that you are obligated not to and you only present these justifications in order to convince others, but they're not important to you. . . . what is important is what the Torah says according to authoritative interpretations and most importantly, Rabbi Miller's. I am judging you favorably and assuming the third option.

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  95. Rabbi Coffer - I'm going to pass on the epistemology negotiations for now. I do believe that you believe that you are following the scientific method.

    Instead, I'll take a passive position for the time being and let you and David hash out the ID issue. If I understand your rationalist argument, then it entirely hinges on ID and more specifically irreducible complexity.

    On the philosophy side, I am actually looking forward to your next post on free choice that you alluded to above.

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  96. "I will then respond"
    Alright, well, I await.

    "I don’t want to argue with a ghost."
    Me neither.

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  97. David:

    I am following this discussion and have much to gain by analyzing a conversation between opposing individuals who are knowledgable about the Theory of Evolution. As such, I request that you keep the tone respectful so the conversation doesn't break down, to my loss.

    Thank you!

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  98. David: I don't understand this at all. My comments are in brackets.

    "Evolution works in parallel [is there any evidence of this? or is it the only possible explanation if evolution is accepted a priori?], changing and testing each variant simultaneously in many individuals [what is doing the testing, and how does whatever is doing the testing know what it is testing for? iow, is the final result predetermined?], and then selection for the most favorable [most favorable for what result? The predetermined one?] subset of changes latches them in place, making the matching letters more likely to be fixed. . ."

    "So what we're dealing is guided natural selection based on "clues" as to what works . . . [what clues? until the final result is reached, how does nature discern what is a clue?]"

    This looks like a hybrid of evolution and ID. Is this the view being endorsed by the professor?

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  99. PZ Myers said (as quoted by David) On the other hand, if you took a wild guess, writing down a random 300 amino acids, and I then told you which amino acids in which position were correct, you'd be able to progressively work out the exact sequence in only 20 log 300 trials, or around 50 guesses

    The ID advocates claim that the above comparison is not valid. That is, a protein with even one amino acid out of place is useless, so the natural process does not reward "partial credit". This is the irreducible complexity argument that I am bringing up now for the third time. This is where the debate needs to focus.

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  100. Yitz:

    Shkoyach! You ask a better question than I. Of course, due to my Yeshiva education I know nothing about the TOE.

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  101. Nachum:
    My tone has been respectful. I have shown that I have only 3 options of what to believe regarding Rabbi Coffer and have to take the third. Rabbi Coffer, on the other hand, has been sarcastic [Is it perhaps “whatever makes sense to David?” Yes, I think that’s it. That’s an objective definition. I’m glad we cleared that up...] and after promising to respond to me, has disappeared, at least temporarily. You can disagree with my judgment as to my tone, but you don't seem to be being even-handed. Also, the fact that your yeshiva education neglected to teach you about evolution (as my secular and yeshiva educations also failed to do) doesn't mean Rabbi Coffer or I are knowledgeable about evolution. I'm not, I just know some basic aspects of it. Read some stuff from NCSE, Talkorigins, Dawkins, maybe Kenneth Miller..you're missing out.

    Yitz:
    I was arguing against Rabbi Coffer's argument with regards to length of time and probability. As for irreducible complexity, I'd have to refer you to elsewhere: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/abioprob.html :
    Another claim often heard is that there is a "life sequence" of 400 proteins, and that the amino acid sequences of these proteins cannot be changed, for organisms to be alive.

    This, however, is nonsense. The 400 protein claim seems to come from the protein coding genome of Mycobacterium genetalium, which has the smallest genome currently known of any modern organism [20]. However, inspection of the genome suggests that this could be reduced further to a minimal gene set of 256 proteins [20]. Note again that this is a modern organism. The first protobiont/progenote would have been smaller still [4], and preceded by even simpler chemical systems [3, 10, 11, 15].
    There are in most proteins regions where almost any amino acid can be substituted, and other regions where conservative substitutions (where charged amino acids can be swapped with other charged amino acids, neutral for other neutral amino acids and hydrophobic amino acids for other hydrophobic amino acids) can be made. Some functionally equivalent molecules can have between 30 - 50% of their amino acids different. In fact it is possible to substitute structurally non-identical bacterial proteins for yeast proteins, and worm proteins for human proteins, and the organisms live quite happily. The "life sequence" is a myth.

    ^^^
    There's no debate to be had here. You were right originally: The irreducible complexity argument is old ground.

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  102. Check this out too http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/postmonth/2009_05.html

    In the real world of protein structure and function, it is well established that many amino acids can be changed with little or no effect on function (there are only two "functions" for a protein: to bind and control another object or to bind another object and catalyse a reaction on that object-and this latter includes proton pumping to rotate a flagellum).

    . . .
    So we return to the problem of how big is sequence space? It is not 20 raised to the power of the number of amino acids in the sequence but much less as we discussed in our paper. There is no need to have 20 different types of amino acid each with unique properties or sequence lengths greater than around 100. This is due to the physical similarities between amino acids and the limited range of folded structures. Only a few amino acids in any protein are crucial for its function. Changing these ones will sometimes do almost nothing to the function. However, some will change the function to something new while maintaining structure, and a very few will change the protein structure (and hence its original function) altogether but in all probability still confer a new function. Even if the original structure is destroyed by a mutation and the protein does not fold, the possibility of a new function is not lost as evidenced by the discovery of natively unfolded proteins which acquire fold and function upon binding to a target.

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  103. Rabbosai,
    I've was in the middle of a shakla v'tatya with David when I contracted a heavy cold/flu. I haven't been online for five days or so. I will bl'n resume shortly. Sorry for the delay.

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  104. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  105. Yitz,

    Shalom Aleichem!

    Thank you for your bracha... it worked... eventually... :-)

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  106. David,

    Shalom Aleichem,

    Sorry for the long delay. I was “under the weather” for almost two weeks which then led to an overwhelming backlog of work. I’d like to continue our shakla v’tarya if you don’t mind. I just looked over our communication and it seems to me that the following comment by you is where I did my disappearing act so let’s pick up from here. If I am wrong and there are previous comments I need to respond to, please let me know.

    You wrote: Since you thought Professor Myers' post is stupid, I decided that the above probably would not be clear to you. So I will quote Myers' explanation of how the above applies to proteins specifically and then explain for you.

    That’s perfect! That’s exactly what I’d like you to do from now on. Don’t respond to my comments by merely cutting and pasting from talkorigins or some such anti-creationist site. Respond in your own words. This way I can determine whether you actually understand the issue at hand. I want to debate with you, not talkorigins. That’s what I meant by debating with a ghost.

    You quoted: Professor Myers:
    "[Evolution} works in parallel, changing and testing each variant simultaneously in many individuals, and then selection for the most favorable subset of changes latches them in place, making the matching letters more likely to be fixed. . . To put some representative numbers on it, imagine a protein that is 300 amino acids long, made up of 20 possible amino acids, and I'm going to ask you to guess the sequence. Under the creationist model, you wouldn't even want to play the game — it would take you on the order of 20300 trials to hit that one specific arrangement of amino acids. On the other hand, if you took a wild guess, writing down a random 300 amino acids, and I then told you which amino acids in which position were correct, you'd be able to progressively work out the exact sequence in only 20 log 300 trials, or around 50 guesses."

    You explained Myers as follows: So what we're dealing is guided natural selection based on "clues" as to what works, not based on a ridiculous amount of fortuitousness (coincidences), as you were telling Yitz.

    Hmm… I wonder how these “clues” appear without any intelligence at all. And how can evolution, which is a totally blind mechanism, utilize “clues” in the first place? Let’s keep this simple. Myers admits that a protein with a sequence of 300 amino acids of 20 different types self-sequencing under a creationist model is not a game we’d like to play. Great. So how does he get round the model? By sneaking in intelligence via a back door! He writes: ”On the other hand, if you took a wild guess, writing down a random 300 amino acids, and I then told you which amino acids in which position were correct, you'd be able to progressively work out the exact sequence in only 20 log 300 trials, or around 50 guesses."

    Sure, if I (intelligent) told you (design) which amino acids happen to be in correct sequence, you’d be in business! But who’s “telling” the jumbled molecular mass of randomly formed, dysfunctional, pre-biotic amino acids to “lock in” a few randomly sequenced amino acids that happen, to be preliminary to a future, currently unrealized protein? Why would a few amino acids ever be locked in via random chance because in fifty guesses from now their sequence would finally possess significance as a functional protein?

    David, you’ve been duped by patently ridiculous nonsense!

    Continued…

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  107. There are three possibilities here. The first is that you're a moron and in your pursuit of exploring evolution didn't understand the main aspects of the mechanism. The second is that you're intentionally lying in order to bring people to your position. The third is that you only don't believe in evolution because you feel that you are obligated not to and you only present these justifications in order to convince others, but they're not important to you. . . . what is important is what the Torah says according to authoritative interpretations and most importantly, Rabbi Miller's. I am judging you favorably and assuming the third option.

    I smiled when I read this… I am gratified that you have no compunctions about expressing your opinions. Please allow me the same latitude. Here’s my response.

    I think you missed another three possibilities. Here they are.

    The fourth is that you're a moron and in your pursuit of exploring evolution didn't understand the main aspects of the mechanism. The fifth is that you're intentionally lying in order to bring people to your position. The sixth is that you only believe in evolution because you have been intimidated into adopting it by your unfortunate exposure to academia. The arguments themselves don’t rally convince you but you present them anyways in order to convince others. What is important is what Science says according to authoritative interpretations and most importantly, Richard Dawkins (or is it Professor Myers?). I am judging you unfavorably (any one of these options is unfavorable) and assuming a combination of the fourth and the sixth. But don’t worry; it’s not as bad as the fifth!

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  108. The fact that you use the words "random chance" to describe my position clearly indicates that you haven't read a great deal on this subject. By using those words and failing the recognize the nature of natural selection, you've made clear that you do not even understand how evolution works.

    I didn't call you any names. But you've called me a moron. Kol hoposul bemumo pasul. I hope Nachum will now understand who the disrespectful one is here and why I cannot continue this dialogue.

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  109. David:

    For the record, you first held out the possibility that R. Coffer is a moron or a liar, but concluded that he is merely intellectually dishonesty. R. Coffer responded that you are intellectually dishonest, and a moron to boot.

    So you're both being disrespectful. You started, so that's one point against you; R. Coffer was more disrespectful, so that's one point against him.

    Moving on, I would posit a seventh possibility: You are both neither morons, dishonest, nor intellectually dishonest. Rather, one of you is misunderstanding something about the Theory of Evolution.

    David, please stay in this conversation until there is either a resolution or a stalemate.

    Above, I asked the same question as R. Coffer does now. I will repeat it here:

    My comments are in brackets.

    "Evolution works in parallel [is there any evidence of this? or is it the only possible explanation if evolution is accepted a priori?], changing and testing each variant simultaneously in many individuals [what is doing the testing, and how does whatever is doing the testing know what it is testing for? iow, is the final result predetermined?], and then selection for the most favorable [most favorable for what result? The predetermined one?] subset of changes latches them in place, making the matching letters more likely to be fixed. . ."

    "So what we're dealing is guided natural selection based on "clues" as to what works . . . [what clues? until the final result is reached, how does nature discern what is a clue?]"

    This looks like a hybrid of evolution and ID. Is this the view being endorsed by the professor?

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  110. Nachum,



    Just so you know, I didn't really mean to call him a moron. What I said was a combination of 4 and 6. What I meant is the element in #4 of a lack of evolutioanry understanding.

    Whatever the case, it just continues to amaze me how people think they can come out the gate with two fists swinging and actually play the injured party when they (gasp)receive a strong response. I mentioned to one of our readers several months ago that I am simply a mirror. If you smile at the mirror, you will receive a smile in return. If you growl, don't expect a pleasant response.

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  111. please stay in this conversation until there is either a resolution or a stalemate.

    Nachum - You are not going to find a earnest, well informed exchange here about natural selection verses intelligent design.

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