(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…