Thursday, May 19, 2011

Setting the Record Straight

In a recent post, Rabbi Slifkin characterizes my position as follows:

True, in his primary post about evolution, he was forced to concede that theistic evolutionists also legitimately see God's presence in creation, and had to content himself with arguing that they are irrational for seeing direct design in the laws of nature but not in the specific features of the animal kingdom

Although I understand Rabbi Slifkin’s interpretation of my view, ultimately he is not correct. I believe that theistic evolutionists do not see God’s presence in creation. Anyone who is capable of ignoring God’s Hand in the formation of the cell is fooling himself if he thinks he sees God’s Hand in the laws of nature. This is not the time or place to explain my position. I just wanted to set the record straight.

19 comments:

  1. Maybe anyone who is capable of seeing God’s Hand in the laws of nature is fooling himself if he thinks that he doesn't see God’s Hand in the formation of the cell?

    My personal view is that anyone who thinks that naturalistic explanations of life's formation are incompatible with God is fooling himself if he thinks that he sees God's Hand in history.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Natan Slifkin,

    Maybe anyone who is capable of seeing God’s Hand in the laws of nature is fooling himself if he thinks that he doesn't see God’s Hand in the formation of the cell?

    I would love to believe that. In fact, I think I do. But it is irrelevant. From your perspective, the formation of the cell is entirely naturalistic. Ergo, G-d is not implicated. On the other hand, you believe that the laws of nature do implicate G-d in their formation. Concordantly, by your own admission, you are fooling yourself.

    My personal view is that anyone who thinks that naturalistic explanations of life's formation are incompatible with God is fooling himself if he thinks that he sees God's Hand in history.

    So I guess Dovid haMelech, Yeshaya haNavi, Ezra haSofer, Rabbi Akiva and Rambam all fooled themselves. All of them categorically rejected naturalistic explanations of life's formation. All of them believed implicitly in the Creation event as depicted in the Torah. And yet all of them saw the hand of Hashem in history. QED

    By the way, thank you for all the nice things you said about me on your site.

    ReplyDelete
  3. All of them categorically rejected naturalistic explanations of life's formation.

    No, they didn't. Besides, there weren't even any explanations to reject, back then.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This looks like a discussion about semantics.

    If someone invented a coin flipping machine, which operated for billions of years, and over one period the coin came up "heads" thousands of times in a row, I believe that, even though a very stubborn materialistically inclined person could conclude that this result was a random chance occurrence, it would be completely logical to conclude that the machine was "rigged."

    So too with creation. One who sees that the "machine" (the universe with the laws of nature) must have been created by a Creator ex nihilo and consistently resulted in "heads" thousands (millions? billions?)of times in a row (the development of a cell which could reproduce), could rationally conclude that the machine was "rigged" to come up with this result, the Creator had a direct-indirect hand in the creation of the cell, and it was not a random chance occurrence (possible materialistic explanations notwithstanding).

    If this is indeed R. Slifkin's model, then I don't see how R. Coffer is justified in claiming that R. Slifkin "is capable of ignoring God’s Hand in the formation of the cell" and is "fooling himself if he thinks he sees God’s Hand in the laws of nature."

    R. Coffer's assessment would validly apply to someone who takes the position that the formation of the cell is an occurrence that is somewhat likely to happen by chance.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nachum,

    Nice to hear from you.

    If this is indeed R. Slifkin's model, then I don't see how R. Coffer is justified in claiming that R. Slifkin "is capable of ignoring God’s Hand in the formation of the cell"

    Shtey teshuvos ba’davar.

    First of all, let me clear up your confusion. This is not Rabbi Slifkin’s model. He believes that the process of evolution is sufficient to account for the appearance of life on earth. According to him, evolution is a process of nature, no different than plant photosynthesis or animal metabolism. He chooses to see the hand of Hashem in evolution; he is not forced to see it.

    Second of all, even if this was his model, it would be hopelessly inconsistent. Why would an individual feel compelled to accept the scientific community’s assessment re the fact of evolution while simultaneously rejecting their assertions re the validity of its mechanisms? (By Rabbi Slifkin’s own admission, he has not studied the mechanisms of evolution and thus relies on the authority of the scientific community for their validity.)

    In Rabbi Slifkin’s defense, he claims that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence for the fact of evolution (i.e. common descent with modification). He concedes that no one single line of evidence is sufficient to prove the theory but he contends that the confluence of various independent lines of evidence is too powerful to ignore. His argument would make sense if the premise it was built on was true. Unfortunately, it is not. There are no lines of evidence demonstrating common descent any more than especial creation. I wrote about this five years ago. For an in-depth treatment of this subject, please see my article entitled Defending the Mesorah. I think you’ll enjoy it. One of the things I do there is demonstrate that Rabbi Slifkin himself demolishes many of the supposed lines of evidence for evolution!

    Incidentally, Rabbi Slifkin is very easy to pick on. His presentation of the current status of scientific enterprise is beyond reproach. He never embellishes the facts and always backs up his assertions with verifiable quotes. He is extremely honest in this regard. Oddly enough, this is his undoing! Read my article and you’ll see what I’m talking about…

    Have a spiritually uplifting Shabbos!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Natan Slifkin,

    Besides, there weren't even any explanations to reject, back then

    Rabbi Slifkin! I’m disappointed in you. I thought your were a Maimonidian rationalist. Rambam spends the lion’s share of chelek beis in the Moreh rejecting the Greek explanation for the presence of the universe, i.e. kadmus. He did such a good job of it the Yetzer Hara had to find alternative explanations to test mankind; hence, Evolution.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I haven't yet read your article, but I would like to address one of the points you just made, to wit:

    There are no lines of evidence demonstrating common descent any more than especial creation.

    The following, with very slight modification, is taken from http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/camp.html

    Special creation is not a scientific hypothesis, ie, it cannot be falsified. Anything can fit in the creation framework. This is precisely why present anti-evolutionary creationist theories are unscientific; all possible results are consistent with the "hypothesis." If there were no biochemical similarity [between all living things], would that be inconsistent with the "creation framework"? For example, if we found an insect that had a genetic code radically different from the standard genetic code, would that mean that Divine creation was impossible? No—creationists would not be scrambling to explain that result (but evolutionary biologists would be).

    ReplyDelete
  9. Nachum,

    You need to stay off talkorigns. Prolonged exposure to this site has been proven to result in irreversible brain damage! Keep on visiting this site and they might start writing articles about you in Ami Magazine… :-)

    I almost never respond to the stupidity from that site but for you I’ll make an exception.

    ”Special creation is not a scientific hypothesis, ie, it cannot be falsified… all possible results are consistent with the "hypothesis”

    This statement is false/misleading on more than one level. But before I explain, you need a bit of an education in the philosophy of science.

    Falsifiablity is not a universally recognized criterion for valid science. Even Karl Popper admitted that falsifiablity was nothing more than a tool for criticizing a theory. But on the opposite end of the pole, Thomas Kuhn argued that scientists work within a conceptual paradigm and that this paradigm strongly influences the way they relate to the data which they see. Scientists go to great lengths to defend their paradigm against falsification. Incidentally, all this is covered in my article.

    But let’s assume for a minute that falsifiability is inherent to the scientific method. I mentioned before that talkorigns was wrong on more than one level. What I meant is as follows:

    1) Special Creation is falsifiable

    2) Evolution itself has been falsified many times over

    Both of these issues were dealt with in my article (you really should read it). I will cut and paste the portion which deals most directly with these claims. See the following comment.

    Continued…

    ReplyDelete
  10. Continued from previous comment…

    When Charles Darwin published his famous book “On the Origin of Species”, he included an entire chapter detailing the issues that his theory faced. The name of the chapter is “Difficulties on Theory” and the primary difficulty was what he referred to as the “absence or rarity of transitional fossils”. He asks:

    “Why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species, being as we see them, well defined?”

    Later on, in chapter nine, he asks:

    “But just in proportion as this process of extermination (a theory Darwin proposed for the lack of transitional forms) has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.”

    Subsequently, Darwin stated that although in his day the study of fossils in the rocks was only in its incipient stage, he was confident that after time, his theory would be shown to be true. However, his “grave objection” was so powerful that even today, almost 150 years after Darwin’s book was published, paleontologists are still stymied by it. And although all the high-school biology text books assert with confidence that scientists possess numerous examples of transitional sequences, the truth is that these links are just as “rare or absent” today as they were in Darwin’s age.

    In order to demonstrate common ancestry, a fossil must possess some of the features of its supposed ancestors but, as Darwin wrote, all we find are “well defined” species, whether currently in existence, or extinct; 150 years later, that is still all we find. The evolutionist asserts that all species on earth descended from a single common ancestor through “insensibly fine gradations”. In other words, the theory considers life as an ever-changing phenomenon, without any preordained classifications. However, a concerted study of life invariably reveals precisely what the Torah states: that organisms are strictly separated into distinct categories (see R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch, parhsas Bereishis, for an exposition on this topic).

    Robert Carroll, a highly regarded evolutionist, writes as follows:

    “Although an almost incomprehensible number of species inhabit Earth today, they do not form a continuous spectrum of barely distinguishable intermediates. Instead, nearly all species can be recognized as belonging to a relatively limited number of clearly distinct major groups, with very few illustrating intermediate structures or ways of life.”

    Without an assumed attitude of discounting the messorah’s account of the individual creation of different species, 150 years of scientists’ systematic failure to produce intermediate fossils should serve to demonstrate the falseness of mainstream evolutionary theory, just as Darwin himself admitted.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Talk Origins is a place where information on evolution is available. I do not take any of the scientists at their word, but that website is a good starting point. Your humble blog and other creationist websites offer the other side of the argument. I likewise do not take you or other creationists at their word.

    You have not at all addressed the fallsifiability of special creation theory, so let me take a stab at it and you tell me whether you agree.

    (1) According to special creation there should be no transitional fossils at all between one "min" and another "min". For example, if "min" means "species", creationism predicts that there should be no species-to-species transitions whatsoever in the fossil record. If "min" means "genus" or "family" or "order", there should be no species-to-species transitions that cross genus, family, or order lines.

    (2) Special Creation predicts that since life did not originate by descent from a common ancestor, fossils should not appear in a temporal progression, and it should not be possible to link modern taxa to much older, very different taxa through a "general lineage" of similar and progressively older fossils.

    Do you agree with either of the above predictions?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh, I thought of a few more:

    If Massaeh Breishis is liteally true, then fossils should be found in the same order outlined in Massaeh Breishis: seed-bearing trees on bottom, then above that all aquatic animals and flying animals, then above that all terrestrial animals, then above that, humans.

    If you resort to a "mabul apologetic" wherby fossils became displaced due to the mabul, then terrestrial animal fossils should not be sorted at all.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nachum,

    Talk Origins is a place where information on evolution is available. I do not take any of the scientists at their word

    I’m glad to hear that. I’d like to make one comment though. Talk Origins is not a scientific site. The articles written there are not written by “scientists”. It is an apologetic site, just like AiG or ICR. The primary difference is the side of the fence they choose to defend. Oh, and also, AiG and ICR make sense…

    You have not at all addressed the fallsifiability of special creation theory

    ???

    Did you read my comment? Here’s some of it repeated. It addresses this very issue.

    When Charles Darwin published his famous book “On the Origin of Species”, he included an entire chapter detailing the issues that his theory faced… the primary difficulty was what he referred to as the “absence or rarity of transitional fossils”.

    He asks:

    “Why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species, being as we see them, well defined?”… Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.”

    Subsequently, Darwin stated that although in his day the study of fossils in the rocks was only in its incipient stage, he was confident that after time, his theory would be shown to be true [here’s his criterion of falsifiability]. However, his “grave objection” was so powerful that even today, almost 150 years after Darwin’s book was published, paleontologists are still stymied by it.

    In order to demonstrate common ancestry, a fossil must possess some of the features of its supposed ancestors but, as Darwin wrote, all we find are “well defined” species, whether currently in existence, or extinct; 150 years later, that is still all we find [in other words, Evolution has been falsified]. The evolutionist asserts that all species on earth descended from a single common ancestor through “insensibly fine gradations”. In other words, the theory considers life as an ever-changing phenomenon, without any preordained classifications. However, a concerted study of life invariably reveals precisely what the Torah states: that organisms are strictly separated into distinct categories [proof for the narrative in the Torah]

    Continued…

    ReplyDelete
  14. I take back the earlier assertion that If Massaeh Breishis is liteally true, then fossils should be found in the same order outlined in Massaeh Breishis: seed-bearing trees on bottom, then above that all aquatic animals and flying animals, then above that all terrestrial animals, then above that, humans.

    I realize now that if all of these were created within the same six-day period, the fossils should actualy be all mixed together. As such, the next prediction, that all fossils should be mixed together in the same strata, is not dependent on you relying on "mabul apologetics", but on your initial creation theory.

    ReplyDelete
  15. so let me take a stab at it and you tell me whether you agree

    Instead of agreeing to you, allow me to formulate my criterion using my own words. I will leave it up to you to determine whether I agree with you.

    Falsifiability Criterion for Evolution – We should find innumerous transitional fossils demonstrating insensibly fine gradations from one species to the next. If we don’t, this falsifies the theory.

    Falsifiability Criterion for Special Creation as described in the Torah – We should encounter a situation where species can be recognized as belonging to a relatively limited number of clearly distinct major groups, as opposed to illustrating intermediate structures or ways of life. If we don’t, this falsifies (chs’v) the creationist view.

    So, do I agree with you?

    ReplyDelete
  16. The more I think about it, I realize that I disagree with my initial proposition and with you.

    Suppose we would find what appears to be a "transitional species", eg a terrestrial animal with gills. This would in no way falsify special creation, as you could then claim that this animal/fish was created through special creation as well!

    Can you think of any additional falsifiable predictions?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Nachum,

    If you resort to a "mabul apologetic" wherby fossils became displaced due to the mabul, then terrestrial animal fossils should not be sorted at all.

    They’re not! I’ll bet you didn’t know that. You certainly won’t learn it from talkorigins. But it’s true. The bubba ma’asos you read about the geological column (Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary and Quaternary) is just plain false. Almost nowhere in the world do we find such a stratagraphic pattern. The vast number of fossil finds do not conform to the evolutionary depiction of the unfolding of life. Of course, evolutionary geologists have excuses for this. In fact, they’ve invented whole new theories of geology based on the idea that evolution must be supported. You will surely find them on talkorigins. But they’re excuses, nothing else. All this is dealt with at length in my article and referenced extensively. Please read my article.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Nachum,

    The more I think about it, I realize that I disagree with my initial proposition and with you. Suppose we would find what appears to be a "transitional species", eg a terrestrial animal with gills. This would in no way falsify special creation, as you could then claim that this animal/fish was created through special creation as well!

    I can’t help smiling. You’re finally beginning to take the steps necessary to properly analyze the claims of the evolutionists and for this I commend you. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that you “realize” anything yet. You need to “think about it” for quite some more time.

    Continued…

    ReplyDelete
  19. Let me give you an example of what I mean by evidence (or lack thereof). Let’s imagine there was a professional tug of war between two wrestling teams in a specific location. On one side, there were one hundred big burly men grasping the end of a mile long steel link chain and about a mile away there was another 100 burly men grasping the other end of the same chain. The referee said “go” and the two teams started tugging. Unfortunately, the promoters underestimated the strength of these men and in about thirty seconds the immense strain on the chain caused the thousands of links to pop open, the chain fell apart, and all the wrestlers fell backward on their backsides. It was a really funny sight! The first thing you do is run home and gleefully tell your wife about the spectacle you observed that day.

    Now, as it happens, your wife is a skeptical person by nature. She tends to doubt things unless they’re proven. So, upon hearing your story, her pesky habit of challenging you asserts itself and she says:

    “Nachum, you don’t really expect me to believe that story, do you?”

    “Well” you counter, “I can provide you with evidence that it occurred”.

    “Great”, she says, “let’s see your evidence”.

    So, you take her to the site where it occurred and you walk along the mile that the chain stretched. As you walk along, you discover two or three links lying on the ground over the entire stretch.

    “You see dear, there are links on the ground. This proves there was a chain”

    “No it doesn’t” she counters, “just because there is one or two links does not prove that there was an entire chain. Where’s the rest of the chain?”

    “Ahh…” you respond, “you are obviously not trained in Chainology my dear wife.”

    “You see, the current theory of chainology holds that links are simply not preserved. It is rare to find a link of a steel chain because the ground tends to swallow them up.”

    “Ok” says your wife, “I accept that. But where’s your evidence that the chain ever existed”? “Perhaps the ground didn’t swallow anything up because there was nothing to swallow?”

    “You obviously don’t understand” you respond with chagrin. “You see, the current system of chainoxonomy is nebulous. It is very hard to tell if something is even a link in the first place or not. Chainoxonomy uses various definitions for links and not always do all links fall into the category proposed by chainoxonomy for classifying links of a steel chain. We may very well be seeing links and not even know it”

    “Aha,” says your wife, “I see”. “But I still have a question for you. Where is your evidence that this mile long chain ever existed!?”

    Finally, in utter frustration, you throw your hands up in the air and shout “How can I possibly prove to you that the chain existed?”

    “I’ll tell you how” she replies. “If as we walked along the mile stretch and I noticed broken chain links every few inches for the entire stretch, I would be convinced that these links actually made up a mile long chain originally”.

    Nachum, I assume you chap the nimshal. If you would provide me with a transitional chain spanning millions of links, I would not claim that this transition was created/planted there by Hashem. Yes, I could claim that but it would be intellectually dishonest.

    ReplyDelete