Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Placing Things Right Side Up

(This post continues our analysis of Rabbi Slifkin’s attitude to Rabbi Shafran’s article in Cross-Currents)

In a follow up post entitled Turning Things On Their Head, Rabbi Slifkin takes Rabbi Menken to task regarding his defense of Rabbi Shafran’s article. The following are some comments on this interchange.

Rabbi Menken wrote as follows:

Nonetheless, and contrary to Rabbi Slifkin’s assertions, it is true that a theist is capable of an impartial view of evolution, while anyone unwilling to entertain the idea of a Creator is incapable of the same.

To which Rabbi Slifkin responds:

That is not contrary to my assertions. In fact, it is entirely consistent with what I wrote. But theists who truly have an impartial view of evolution all accept that the evidence supports it!

Ahh… “truly have an impartial view”. Why didn’t someone say so? Sounds like a No True Scotsman argument to me. Rabbi Menken makes an assertion that is internally sound logically, and Rabbi Slifkin responds with an ad hoc attempt to maintain his position by invoking a logically fallacious counterargument. In English this means that according to Rabbi Slifkin any theist who concludes that evolution is unsupported is automatically considered partial because, according to Rabbi Slifkin, all impartial theists consider evolution proven. The fallacy of such an argument is self-evident.

Rabbi Slifkin challenges Rabbi Menken as follows:

By the way, if you have evaluated the evidence for evolution and found it lacking, then I assume this means that you considered the question of why marsupials are concentrated in Australia, why whales are not able to breath underwater like fish, and why every species that is discovered, live and extinct, can be neatly fitted into a nested hierarchal family-tree taxonomy - (for example, there are numerous species with characteristics of dinosaurs and birds, but no intermediates between birds and mammals). Can you share with me the answers that you came up with?

Well, I don’t know if Rabbi Menken ever responded to Rabbi Slifkin (I only skimmed his original article in Cross-Currents for the purpose of writing this post, I did not look in the comment section) but I have a response if anyone is interested.

This “nested hierarchy” argument Rabbi Slifkin is so fond of quoting (he adopted it from the famous PE evolutionist Niles Eldridge) is equally consistent with “Design” theory. Let’s consider the following.

For reasons known only to Him, the Designer decided to Create animal life on earth. He began, like any design engineer would, li’havdil, by designing a small number (50 to 100) basic body plans (referred to as “Phyla” in Linnaean taxonomy). The Designer wanted to create millions of different types of life forms on earth but He chose to stick to the original basic body plans because, after all, they were perfectly functional designs. So, He went on to Design several subcategories to the original category (class, order, family, genus, species) and at each stage He added various additional features in order to achieve the desired variety. To be sure, each additional category was as perfectly designed as the original category because, after all, the Designer is obviously endlessly Wise as is clearly evidenced from His handiwork.

The above, albeit a grossly oversimplified biological depiction of ma’aseh bereishis, suffices to demonstrate that the presence on earth of “categories of life” hierarchaly nested in each other is perfectly consistent with the idea that they were designed.

To be continued…

4 comments:

  1. This “nested hierarchy” argument Rabbi Slifkin is so fond of quoting (he adopted it from the famous PE evolutionist Niles Eldridge) is equally consistent with “Design” theory.

    Hi SC.

    I thought I'd jump back in.

    Life is a material phenomena. As such, science approaches the development of life, as much as possible, from a materialistic perspective. I don't see why you have a problem with this (other than the fact that you perceive it as anti Torah).

    I will point out that all phenomena is arguably consistent with "Design" theory, in the same manner that all present phenomena can be explained with "Godidit."

    For example: I put a switch in the "on" position 100 times, and each time I do so the light turns on. Anyone committed to a materialistic understanding of the universe would conclude that there's some material causality involved. But it would be just as consistent with the phenomena to argue that no, the switch has nothing to do with the light bulb, there are no laws of electricity, and, as to the question of why the light turns on when I put the switch in the "on" position, well, Godidit.

    If I use several dating methods on a rock which show that the rock is 100 years old, anyone committed to a materialistic understanding of the universe would conclude that the rock is 100 years old, i.e. that there's some material causality involved in the outcome of the various tests. But it would be just as consistent with the phenomena to argue that the rock is 5 or 5,000 years old, and as for the outcomes of the various tests, well, Godidit.

    If I have several independent ways of dating strata, and find different fossils of species in each strata, anyone committed to a materialistic understanding of the universe would conclude that each organism was extant only at the time that the strata containing the fossil was on top. But it would be just as consistent with the phenomena to argue that no, all the fossilized species were extant at the same time, and as for the placement of the fossils, well, Godidit.

    Another permutation of Godidit would be to concede that the species were indeed not extant at the same time. But that doesn't mean that one evolved from the other. Rather, a Designer kept designing progressive species as time went on. From a scientific perspective, I presume that this Godidit theory is just as valid as a theory that one species gave birth to another slowly over time (but I may be wrong about this).

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  2. Nachum Boehm,

    Wow. A blast from the past! Shalom Aleichem. Happy you decided to jump in.

    Life is a material phenomena. As such, science approaches the development of life, as much as possible, from a materialistic perspective. I don't see why you have a problem with this

    I don’t. I don’t see how you conclude that I do. It is not the development of life which is in question here. It is the origins of life which is in question. When studying how, say, a seed develops into an apple tree, the function of science is to study the existing biological causes and develop a specific knowledge base relating to that field. But how did the seed originate? How did it come to have the complex digital information encoded on the spine of its DNA molecule? This is a question of origins.

    So what is my “problem”? Simple. In my opinion, material explanations (i.e. blind, undirected causes) are incapable of accounting for the origins of the seed or any other biological phenomena for that matter. The only other logical alternative is Intelligent Design. In fact, even your favorite evolutionary author, Richard Dawkins, admits that without Darwin’s theory scientists would have to conclude that living systems were designed for a purpose. Ergo, without evolution Intelligent Design is scientifically implicated! Yet scientists ignore the empirical evidence for ID and continue to cling to their unsupported material explanations. This is not science Nachum; it is Materialism.

    I will point out that all phenomena is arguably consistent with "Design" theory, in the same manner that all present phenomena can be explained with "Godidit."

    This is false. The fact that you compare the two demonstrates that you do not grasp the underlying argument behind Intelligent Design. ID is an evidence-based theory, not some reasonless nonsense. ID claims that “there are tell-tale features of living systems that are best explained by an intelligent cause, that is, by the conscious choice of a rational agent” (Stephen Meyer). The “godidit theory” is not evidence-based. It is no different than saying Martiansdidit.

    As far as your arguments from dating methods and the rock strata, we’ve been down this road many times before. I have explained why the dating methods are invalid and have also dealt with your fossil and stratagraphic issue. For my latest post on this topic, please see the four part series called The Hoax of Geology. I think you’ll like it…

    Nice to have you back Nachum…

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  3. In my opinion, material explanations (i.e. blind, undirected causes) are incapable of accounting for the origins of the seed or any other biological phenomena for that matter. The only other logical alternative is Intelligent Design.

    I was talking about evolution, not the origins of life.

    The fact that you compare the two demonstrates that you do not grasp the underlying argument behind Intelligent Design. ID is an evidence-based theory, not some reasonless nonsense. ID claims that “there are tell-tale features of living systems that are best explained by an intelligent cause, that is, by the conscious choice of a rational agent” (Stephen Meyer).

    Perhaps you should do a series of posts summarizing the evidence for ID theory.

    I have explained why the dating methods are invalid

    No you haven't. There are lots and lots of dating methods. I don't have time now, but would like to discuss them with you if you don't mind.

    By the way, my favorite author is R. Avigdor Miller (The Universe Testifies), not, lehavdil, Richard Dawkins.

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  4. Nachum Boehm,

    I was talking about evolution, not the origins of life.

    Same thing. Evolutionists talk about the survival of the fittest and that’s all fine and well. But what about the arrival of the fittest? How did that happen? How did a dinosaur transform into a bird? How did a simple unicellular organism transform into a complex multi-cellular organism. Where are the mathematical models for such fantastic feats of nature? Evolutionists do not possess even one single detailed, testable Darwinian pathway for a single organism. Not even one! You know why? Because they are not observing, documenting and experimenting with pre-existing phenomena. They are merely taking wild guesses at what may have happened in the past with no evidence at all that their model works or ever did work. Macro-evolutionary processes have simply never been observed to occur.

    Perhaps you should do a series of posts summarizing the evidence for ID theory.

    Bi’ezras Hashem.

    No you haven't. There are lots and lots of dating methods. I don't have time now, but would like to discuss them with you if you don't mind.

    I have discussed the dating methods on this blog and I’ll have to search where. But in any case if it ever comes up again I will gladly discuss them with you.

    By the way, my favorite author is R. Avigdor Miller (The Universe Testifies), not, lehavdil, Richard Dawkins.

    I said “evolutionary author”.

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