Monday, September 26, 2011

Credible Science

Recently a group of scientists with the European Organization for Nuclear Research reported that over a three year period they had fired 15,000 neutrino beams approximately 750 kilometers away to a lab in Italy and found that the beams arrived 6 billionths of a second faster than the speed of light. Before announcing what they had found, the physicists working on the experiment claim that they checked and rechecked their findings over many months eliminating anything that could have produced a misreading. They then presented their findings to a room full of skeptical scientists.

Rabbi Slifkin writes as follows:

A number of people wrote to me about last week's report that a group of scientists at CERN tentatively claimed to have measured neutrino particles traveling faster than the speed of light - which modern science, based on special relativity, deems impossible. "If scientists were wrong about this, then maybe they were wrong about everything!" Maybe the universe isn't really 14 billion years old - maybe it's only 5771 years old!

To this question, Rabbi Slifkin offers the following sagely response.

Of course, the correct view is that some scientific facts are better grounded than others. Scientists might have to change their mind one day about the universe being 14 billion years old, but they are not going to discover that it is only a few thousand years old… For the non-specialist, it might be difficult to determine how well-established different scientific facts are. But it should be relatively easy to find out that the issues which concern (some) Jews - the antiquity of the universe, the common ancestry of living creatures, the non-existence of a global Flood… are very well grounded and will not ever be overturned.

All I can do is shake my head in disbelief, or perhaps, despair. For those interested in the truth, here are some facts.

Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity has been tested thousands of times in the past hundred years. It is hard to find a more solidly based “scientific fact” than Special Relativity (SR). The CERN report is startling! And if it turns out to be true, it has the potential of overturning the entire science of Physics as we know it.

Here’s another fact. Evolutionary Common Ancestry (ECA) has never been tested, not even once! The entire theory is based on wild and un-testable speculation, nothing else. Furthermore, there isn’t even a shred of evidence for ECA. On the contrary, the fossil record reveals the sudden appearance of life-forms, a scenario that is diametrically opposed to that of ECA.

Here’s yet another fact. The age of the universe (13.7byr) is based on a theory which is entirely speculative. Big Bang Cosmology (BBC) is based on assumptions that have never been proven. Its fundamental tenets are opposed by contradictory evidence which can only be reconciled by inventing hypothetical entities which have never been observed to exist.

To equate SR with ECA and BBC is the height of scientific folly. The former is founded on solid evidence and extensive experimentation. The latter two are not. The fact that Rabbi Slifkin is able to equate SR with ECA and BBC, indeed even consider the latter two more well-founded than the former, clearly demonstrates his lack of understanding regarding the level of scientific evidence attributable to these theories. The truth is Rabbi Slifkin’s readers are right. If even Special Relativity can be questioned this should serve as a wake-up call to people like Rabbi Slifkin who allow silly theories like ECA to mold their theology in direct contradiction to our well-supported and rational traditions.  

As far as the non-existence of the global flood, I would love to know how scientists are absolutely sure this phenomenon never existed. I would also like to know how Rabbi Slifkin accounts for the presence of marine fossils on the tops of mountains all over the world. This, of course, is only one of many lines of evidence for a global flood. The Christian creationists have done a lovely job documenting the evidence for a global flood and the evidence is compelling. And although they deserve a big yasher koach for their efforts, it’s really too bad. We should be the ones on the forefront of defending the Torah. Instead, we are doing our best to align ourselves with the speculative drivel of the atheistic scientific community in direct contradiction to our ancient and well-founded traditions. Shame on us...

46 comments:

  1. I do not believe that neutrinos will be found to have really violated the theory of Relativity but the fact that the results are being said to be poised to possibly overturn the accepted idea that nothing can travel faster than light, destroyed something already for the hearers who know that an established idea of science is being said to be possibly overturned. The idea that consensus science is true. Here we have a consensus about faster than light travel. If consensus science establishes fact the neutrino results should be said to for sure not overthrow accepted theory. So now we hear well maybe that will be overturned but our little pet theories can never be in the same position. In essence they rewrite history as if consensus science was claimed only to have a list of what theories could not possibly be overturned. They are being backed into a corner and reinterpreting their own beliefs. I'm poised I feel to see the best of both worlds. I think the neutrino results will not hold up as a real violation of Relativity and I see already the consensus science believers exposing their true colors.

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  2. I think it is the mechanism of evolution that lacks real, solid evidence - certainly with regards to the neo-Darwinian mechanism.

    In terms of common descent, I don't think the problem is one of evidence - they do have more to say there for instance, this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxJ1E7-Yie0.

    Here, I think the area of machlokes has to do with the types of explanations that one looks for. Common Descent is a naturalistic explanation for noted phenomenon in the physical world. One could explain the universal genetic code by common descent. It would account for why it exists.

    But, and this is crucial, one need not explain it that way. One could also explain it by means of Divine Creation. G-d created the universal genetic code. He is the great programmer in the sky (so to speak).

    Now, how G-d created it and how to fit that creation into the first chapter of Bereishis is another question - but the point is that we need not posit a first, single-cellular ancestor to all biological life to account for the similarities that we see between different creatures in the biological world. One need only do that if they are committed to 100%, totally naturalistic, material processes - and there is no reason or necessity to be committed to such a position vis-a-vis the creation and/or development of life.

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  3. YA,

    Shalom.

    Basically I agree with everything you are saying. But I'd like to point something out. While it remains true that the consensus of science has been overturned many times in the past, I generally stay away from using this line of reasoning in my presentations. I have a healthy respect for the scientific enterprise and often use it as a tool to demonstrate the truth of our traditions. What I try and impart to my readers is the fundamental distinction between operational science and historical based science.

    The former is governed by a rigorous set of imperatives known as the scientific method. Included in this is empirical evidence, extensive experimentation, peer-review publication, duplication of experimentation by peers, further and extensive duplication under a variety of conditions in order for the results to adopt statistical significance, and then finally acceptance. This is how bridges are built and how rocket ships make it to the moon. One of my colleagues has a PhD in electrical engineering and is a well-respected and tenured professor of Computer Science. He is intimately familiar with the peer-review process having published over 50 such papers himself. One of his research projects is to develop the programming for pacemakers. The amount of experimentation and duplication such a device must undergo before it becomes approved by the appropriate governmental body is vast.

    On the other hand, historical based sciences such as evolution are not subject to the rigors of such a method. Scientists in these fields routinely develop theories and make assertions which are entirely speculative. For instance, evolutionists have not produced even a single detailed testable Darwinian pathway, not even one! Not on a molecular level, and not on a gross-anatomical level. And currently they have at least 2 million species to account for.

    The reason I juxtaposed ECA and BBC with SR in my post is because I wanted to point out that if even in the fields of testable science (SR has been tested thousands of times) things can be questioned, kal va’chomer in fields of science that possess no concrete evidence and have not been tested even once. But I did not mean to imply that scientific consensus is never reliable. It’s just not reliable in speculative sciences. In operational sciences I thing the Torah would obligate us to accept the consensus of science. For instance, if the consensus of medical doctors is that individual X has a high risk of losing his life if he does not undergo operation Y, I think the Torah’s injunction of v’nishmartem mi’od li’nafshoseichem would obligate him to undergo the operation in accordance with the consensus of science.

    YA, I hope you don’t think I am mitigating the importance of your argument. I believe you are correct. It’s just not the way I normally argue. Thank you for writing and thank you for your ongoing support of this blog’s positions.

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  4. Moshe,

    I don’t think I ever formally welcomed you to our blog so Shalom Aleichem! Welcome to our humble venue. I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for your participation. I hope the positions espoused on this blog serve to reinforce your faith in the long-standing traditions of our holy nation.

    I think it is the mechanism of evolution that lacks real, solid evidence - certainly with regards to the neo-Darwinian mechanism.

    Agreed!

    In terms of common descent, I don't think the problem is one of evidence - they do have more to say there for instance, this video…

    I disagree. If you feel you have evidence which supports Evolutionary Common Ancestry (ECA), please outline it here in the comments section and I will gladly discuss it with you. But I must insist on a few things before we begin. In order for our conversation to be meaningful, you must be thoroughly familiar with the scientific material. If you’re not, please read up on it before you comment. Also, you must delineate your line of evidence in clear terms and, if challenged, provide support for your assertions by appealing to the published scientific literature. Please don’t point me to 4 minute videos on YouTube.

    Here, I think the area of machlokes has to do with the types of explanations that one looks for. Common Descent is a naturalistic explanation for noted phenomenon in the physical world.

    Actually, it’s not. The noted phenomena of our world contradict ECA as a naturalistic explanation for their existence. Species appear suddenly in the record. Existing species are all well-defined and fit neatly into several distinct taxonomic categories. No overlap between the categories as ECA would require.

    One could explain the universal genetic code by common descent. It would account for why it exists.

    You got that backwards. Either the Universal Code exists or it doesn’t exist. You can’t explain the universal genetic code (UGC) by common descent. Perhaps what you mean to say is that if the UGC does exist, then it can account for why common ancestry exists if indeed common ancestry does exist. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. If you believe that there is some sort of Universal Genetic Code and you believe that it provides evidence for ECA, please outline your argument at length and we’ll take it from there.

    I noticed from the rest of your comment that you are endeavoring to support the Torah’s depiction by modifying the idea of common ancestry. But before I even comment on that I’d like to hear from you regarding the evidence you feel you have for DCA. Perhaps it will turn out that you have no evidence thus rendering a reconciliation between the Torah and DCA moot.

    Once again, thank you for writing. I hope to hear more of your thoughts and ideas in the future.

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  5. SC,

    Whether I agree fully with you or not on topics no offense or context taken other than how you meant it especially with Elul here. Kesiva UChasima Tova!

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  6. >>>> As far as the non-existence of the global flood, I would love to know how scientists are absolutely sure this phenomenon never existed.

    The issue against the Torah is NOT that there never was a global flood but that the Torah’s claim of a global flood approximately 4000 years ago is very dubious.

    As you well know,

    • To our knowledge, absolutely no other nation claims there was a flood approx. 2100 BCE.
    • Massive numbers of records indicate continuous civilization throughout this period.
    • A wealth of artifacts have been dated pre-2100 BCE, none showing any water damage.
    • No geological evidence of a global flood 4000 years ago
    • Genetic diversity from 2 humans deemed impossible in only 4000 years.

    BTW, have the marine fossils discovered near mountain tops been dated?

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  7. Hello Rabbi Coffer,

    Thanks for responding. Here is part one of my response:

    The video I linked to above was discussing taking the Pax-6 from a mouse and inserting it into a fruit-fly's genome. The fruit-fly developed eyes (seemingly) similar to how it normally develops eyes. The point of the experiment was to show that there is a similarity in some times of genes among significantly different species. Here is a write up about the experiment: http://www.accessexcellence.org/WN/SUA01/master_eye_gene.php

    I do find this experiment more impressive than evidence from similarities in the appearance of embryos, vestigial structures and the like which I don't find particularly impressive as it is too subjective in nature. The fact that you can take a gene from a mouse and it can produce the same FUNCTION as a similar gene in a fruit-fly is, I think, noteworthy. In essence, it's saying that the same line of code was found in the mouse and the fruit-fly.

    One can legitimately ask - how is that you can have two genes in two radically different animals that produce the same functional outcome? How did they end up with the same (or very similar) lines of code?

    Now, in terms of answers - common descent is a proposed answer. One can logically argue that common descent would answer the question. If all creatures evolved from a common ancestor then that would explain the phenomenon in question.

    Now an explanation is not the same thing as proof. Their claim is that this explanation can explain more observable facts of the natural world than any other hypothesis. I don't know if this is the case since much of the other evidence seems to be more like interpreting a poem than hard and fast science.

    That's how I see the argument (most of the time) for common descent - it's a reading of the observable evidence (just like one can give an alternative reading to a piece of poetry). They, of course, want to claim that it's the only reading or the only good reading or the best reading.

    Behind that claim is, I believe, a philosophical assumption (or agenda) - namely that there has to be a naturalistic explanation for the development of all the bio-diversity that we observe. If one makes that assumption then common descent may indeed seem like the best explanation. Somehow or other, there must be a common ancestor from which both these animals came from - how else did they end up with the functionally same genetic code.

    So what we have here is a subjective interpretation of the evidence sprinkled with a couple/few more solid pieces of evidence based upon a philosophical assumption.

    That's what they have - not the strongest argument, but it is a legitimate position (even if it's ultimately wrong it is logically consistent based on observable evidence with a thought-out philosophical foundation).

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  8. Part 2 of my response:


    Now, I don't necessarily agree with any of it (although I do find the more solid pieces of evidence interesting), but I also don't feel I have to fight it tooth and nail (I'm much less sympathetic to the neo-Darwinian mechanism). I think it's better to identify it and recognize it for what it is.

    In other words, call a spade a spade. Yes, you made an argument. Yes, it is possible to see things this way. But no, you have not demonstrated your point with any of the rigor that one finds in other areas of science [like, say, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, whoops, er I mean like the structure and function of DNA :-)]. You have not compelled me to see the world that way.

    At this point we have options on how to relate to their claims.

    To start with we can agree that there seems to be some sort of shared foundation, but reject the idea that the foundation is a natural, physical process. That is my idea of the common source (or the common Programmer, if you will). This is another way of saying that yes, you have found similarities in the form, function and structure of different living creatures - and the nature of that form, function and structure indicates a Designing Intelligence/Divine Creator.

    Another option is to reject the argument that there is some sort of shared foundation? The evidence that you discovered does not necessarily indicate a common foundation for reasons a, b, c, etc. I believe this is your perspective (please correct me if I am wrong).

    A third option would be to argue that there is a shared physical foundation (perhaps common descent), and G-d created the mechanism that led to all of the bio-diversity out of that common ancestor.

    You have, elsewhere, argued against the third approach and I relate to your reasons, although I wonder if it is not theoretically possible to reconcile this approach with the Torah's perspective on how G-d created the world (more on that, though, another time).

    Hope that helps.

    Ksiva VaChasima Tova,

    Moshe

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  9. elemir…

    Hi! One of my favorite bar plugtas! (after Resh Laskish died, Rav Yochanan bemoaned the fact that there was no one left to challenge him. I derive great satisfaction and personal growth from your critical remarks and thus thank you for taking the time to write.)

    The issue… the Torah’s claim of a global flood approximately 4000 years ago is very dubious.

    As you well know,

    • To our knowledge, absolutely no other nation claims there was a flood approx. 2100 BCE.
    • Massive numbers of records indicate continuous civilization throughout this period.
    • A wealth of artifacts have been dated pre-2100 BCE, none showing any water damage.
    • No geological evidence of a global flood 4000 years ago
    • Genetic diversity from 2 humans deemed impossible in only 4000 years.


    Okey dokey. I guess this was destined to happen sooner or later. A good “flood” debate! FYI, I contest each one of your assertions above. Some are easy to disprove, others require more time and effort to explain. Unfortunately, I am travelling to the Catskills for Rosh Hashana so I don’t have time to get into it with you now. But here’s my commitment to you. If you pledge to “stay in the ring” with me as we explore this issue, I will commit to initiate a brand new thread on this topic. I will outline the basic premises of my position re the flood in one or two brand new posts on this blog and we can hash it out in the comments section. Deal?

    P.S. Just so you know, I have not done extensive research on this topic. I am using your challenge as a spur to force me to look into it in depth and gather as much information as possible. Don’t be afraid to enter into debate with me on the flood. You never know… I might concede your position, at least partially (I mean that honestly. If you search my writings on the Avodah website you will see that initially I was aligned with Rabbi Slifkin’s views on the flood!). Let’s explore this topic and see where it leads us.

    Lishana tova teiChaseiv v’seiChaseim, l’alter, l’chaim tovim, b’sifran shel tzadikim gemurim!

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  10. Moshe,

    Unfortunately I do not have time now to engage in a detailed discussion now but here’s a few comments for the time being.

    I do find this experiment more impressive than evidence from similarities in the appearance of embryos, vestigial structures and the like

    How is it more impressive? Please explain.

    The fact that you can take a gene from a mouse and it can produce the same FUNCTION as a similar gene in a fruit-fly is, I think, noteworthy.

    Me too.

    One can legitimately ask - how is that you can have two genes in two radically different animals that produce the same functional outcome?

    Agreed!

    One can logically argue that common descent would answer the question. If all creatures evolved from a common ancestor then that would explain the phenomenon in question.

    Funny you should invoke logic. Logically ECA might possess the necessary conditions to allow for the presence of homologous genes (HG) but it does not possess the sufficient conditions necessary to account for its presence. Accordingly, you can’t claim that HG implies ECA. So I revert to my original question to you; how is HG more impressive as a line of evidence than ontogenic and vestigial similarities?

    Incidentally, ECA does not even possess the necessary conditions to allow for homologous genes. According to the evolutionary paradigm, the eye initially arose spontaneously via random mutations of the gene. How did the first eye arise? And when it did arise, why was the genetic code transferred to other pre-existing species? Here’s something you may not know. According to the standard evolutionary depiction, the phenomenon of eyes arose purely by chance (i.e. random mutation) three times in three entirely unrelated life-forms. Your scenario is not Evolutionary Common Ancestry. It’s Moshian Common Ancestry. According to Moshe, the original ancestor of all life had eyes! Unfortunately no evolutionist claims such a thing. And it goes without saying that there is no evidence at all in the fossil record for such a thing. Why do you think the scientists in the article you quoted were so surprised?

    Now an explanation is not the same thing as proof.

    Aha! So you don’t have any evidence, right?

    Their claim is that this explanation can explain more observable facts of the natural world than any other hypothesis.

    And their claim is wrong as evidenced from the observable fossil record and from the observable fixity of current life.

    That's how I see the argument (most of the time) for common descent - it's a reading of the observable evidence (just like one can give an alternative reading to a piece of poetry). They, of course, want to claim that it's the only reading or the only good reading or the best reading.

    You’re beginning to drift away from the matter at hand. Right now the topic of conversation is evidence for ECA. So far you haven’t provided any.

    That's what they have - not the strongest argument, but it is a legitimate position (even if it's ultimately wrong it is logically consistent based on observable evidence with a thought-out philosophical foundation).

    This is simply not true. Their position is not consistent with the observable evidence as I’ve demonstrated ad nauseum on this blog and even right here in these comments. But who cares? As I mentioned, the topic here is your claim that HG serves as evidence for DCA. Logical consistency does not equal compelling evidence.

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  11. Moshe,

    Yes, you made an argument. Yes, it is possible to see things this way. But no, you have not demonstrated your point with any of the rigor that one finds in other areas of science… You have not compelled me to see the world that way.

    That’s really too bad. But there’s time yet. As far as your comment re the rigor of my demonstration, I can’t think of anything more rigorous than the presence of endlessly complex and purposeful phenomena appearing suddenly in the record. Try as you might, you will never be able to (read: I will never allow you to) circumvent this plain and simple piece of powerful evidence for maaseh bereishis as depicted in the Torah. Sudden and rapid creation is the only rational explanation for our observations of life on earth and our observations of the fossil record.

    To start with we can agree that there seems to be some sort of shared foundation, but reject the idea that the foundation is a natural, physical process. That is my idea of the common source (or the common Programmer, if you will). This is another way of saying that yes, you have found similarities in the form, function and structure of different living creatures - and the nature of that form, function and structure indicates a Designing Intelligence/Divine Creator.

    Gevaldic! I agree. The nature of the similarities in form, function and structure of different living creatures testifies to the presence of an Intelligent/Divine Creator.

    Ksiva Vachasima Tova

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  12. Reb simcha...i expect to be here.

    l'shono tovo to you and your family

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  13. I think I didn't phrase the following line properly in my previous comment:

    "Yes, you made an argument. Yes, it is possible to see things this way. But no, you have not demonstrated your point with any of the rigor that one finds in other areas of science… You have not compelled me to see the world that way."

    You responded:
    "That’s really too bad. But there’s time yet."


    I was NOT addressing you in that statement - I was addressing those who argue for common descent. I was trying to distinguish between making an argument and proving or demonstrating a point.

    For instance, I'm pretty convinced that DNA really exists. I feel that it has been demonstrated. As It's not just an argument, but an observable entity that can be manipulated and worked with. I'm convinced.

    On the other hand, I see the idea of common descent as an argument. I don't counter that they have no argument - I think they can make a case. I don't even argue that they have shown interesting similarities between different creatures and species. I even grant them that within their philosophical world that this evidence can be used to argue for common descent.

    Where I do disagree, though, is with the philosophical world that they come from. The same evidence can be radically reinterpreted if one believes in design. Yes, there are similarities and commonality. Yes, that indicates a common source - but that source is a Mind, an Intelligence - or, in less philosophical terms - it is the Borei Olam.

    What's more, I have a very good reason for believing in the idea of creation and design - besides the physical evidence which overwhelms us for design - we have the Masora and G-d's revealed word. I have a reason to believe in my philosophical position.

    What reason does the naturalistic/materialistic scientist, philosopher or theologian offer for their philosophical position? Perhaps it's their -but let them articulate it. Let them defend the foundation upon which their whole edifice stands.

    In other words, I think this issue is as much (if not more) a philosophical/theological issue than it is a scientific one - and I think that large segments of the scientific/philosophc modern world is taking a particular philosophical stance (for many without even realizing it) and confusing that with science.

    [more on this in my next comment]

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  14. To Rabbi Coffer,

    I want to note that I am not arguing for common ancestry - I do NOT think that all of life evolved from a single cell. What I am saying is that I think their is a more fundamental issue involved. Let me see if I can do a better job explaining what I mean.

    I think that common ancestry is based on an assumption - one that states that only naturalistic, materialistic processes are responsible for the development of life on earth. This idea was strengthened by Darwin when he provide people with a plausible SOUNDING mechanism for explaining the development of life.

    That is one reason why when the evidence for evolution is lacking new mechanisms or variations on old mechanisms are proposed. People believe that it is possible to explain life this way - they think it's just a matter of discovering and demonstrating the right mechanism. So, if this mechanism doesn't work that just means that we have to find the one that does. It's just a matter of discovery as far as many modern scientists are concerned.

    Related to this is the idea that common descent can be demonstrated independent of the mechanism of evolution. That is to say, the argument is made that we can show that evolution did take place even if we cannot demonstrate how it took place.

    Now, there may be flaws with this argument, but I do not think it's inherently an unreasonable scientific position to take. One can attempt to show that something happened even if they do not know how it happened (although personally speaking I think there is a certain weakness to such arguments without understanding the mechanism).

    Now, none of this should be confused with what i think - I do NOT think that they have proven their case, but when it comes to arguing for common descent I think they have more to say than they do for the mechanism by which evolution is suppose to happen.

    But, and this is a crucial but, they have more to say WITHIN THE PHILOSOPHICAL ASSUMPTION OF A NATURALISTIC/MATERIALISTIC PROCESS. It's like geometry - there is Euclidean geometry and non-euclidean geometry. Both are true (or work) based on their assumptions. Change the assumptions, though, and you change the math. So too, change the philosophical assumptions and you change how you interpret the evidence.

    In fact, my idea of the common source (i.e., the common Programmer) depends in part on the idea that the evidence for common descent does exist - it's the same evidence, but with a different philosophical foundation. The different foundations lead to different conclusions -- one foundation leads to common descent, the other to G-d.

    Now I see no reason to adopt the naturalistic/materialistic philosophical perspective for the development of life. If science were able to clearly and demonstrably evolve a reptile into a mammal in a lab or in the field then I would change my mind (I would NOT change my mind on G-d, Creation or the Torah - just on the means by which G-d created all of life).

    But science has not come close to demonstrating anything of the sort. What's more, I haven't heard any compelling or even well argued reasons why I should adopt a naturalistic/materialistic explanation for the development of life.

    So, in short, I think a lot of this boils down to the philosophical/theological positions one believes - independent of the quality (or lack thereof) of the evidence offered for evolution.

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  15. Dear Moshe,

    G’mar chasima tova and a gut g’bentchte yor

    Re your past two comments, allow me to synopsize your primary point. Although you concede that evolutionists have not proven common ancestry, you nevertheless feel that – within the parameters of methodological naturalism – evolutionists have a right to argue for common ancestry based on some “interesting” similarities between the species. You believe that their argument is valid within the context of their peculiar weltanschauung. To this I counter exactly what I’ve been saying to you all along. These “interesting similarities” are far outweighed by the reality on the ground, so to speak. I’ll just cut and paste what I wrote to you before.

    To your assertion that:

    Here, I think the area of machlokes has to do with the types of explanations that one looks for. Common Descent is a naturalistic explanation for noted phenomenon in the physical world.

    I responded as follows:

    “Actually, it’s not. The noted phenomena of our world contradict ECA as a naturalistic explanation for their existence. Species appear suddenly in the record. Existing species are all well-defined and fit neatly into several distinct taxonomic categories. No overlap between the categories as ECA would require.”

    To your assertion that: Their claim is that this explanation can explain more observable facts of the natural world than any other hypothesis.

    I once again responded that: “And their claim is wrong as evidenced from the observable fossil record and from the observable fixity of current life.”

    Do you see the issue here? I know that scientists are animated by their philosophy of materialism. I can’t do anything about that. What I can do is discuss the scientific evidence. And the evidence contradicts the idea of common ancestry the way evolutionists depict it. My point is that ECA is an invalid argument even assuming a materialistic paradigm. As I wrote to you re your assertion that:

    That's what they have - not the strongest argument, but it is a legitimate position (even if it's ultimately wrong it is logically consistent based on observable evidence with a thought-out philosophical foundation).

    “This is simply not true. Their position is not consistent with the observable evidence as I’ve demonstrated ad nauseum on this blog and even right here in these comments.”

    At this point I am interested in one thing and one thing alone: evidence. And as I wrote to you previously:

    “I can’t think of anything more rigorous than the presence of endlessly complex and purposeful phenomena appearing suddenly in the record. Try as you might, you will never be able to (read: I will never allow you to) circumvent this plain and simple piece of powerful evidence for maaseh bereishis as depicted in the Torah. Sudden and rapid creation is the only rational explanation for our observations of life on earth and our observations of the fossil record.”

    Please note: I haven’t added a single thing to this comment. Just cut and pasted from my previous ones. And as you can see, thus far your comments have not begun to address my issue. I don’t want to talk about philosophy here. I want to talk about scientific evidence and the fact that – notwithstanding the preconceived philosophies on both sides – it:
    a) actively supports maaseh bereishis and
    b) actively disconfirms ECA.

    Please respond at your leisure…

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  16. Hello Rabbi,

    I finally have some time to respond. Here goes...

    “Actually, it’s not. The noted phenomena of our world contradict ECA as a naturalistic explanation for their existence. Species appear suddenly in the record. Existing species are all well-defined and fit neatly into several distinct taxonomic categories. No overlap between the categories as ECA would require.”


    I think this relates more towards the mechanism of evolution than the question of whether or not an evolutionary process happened. An evolutionary biologist could simply respond that different mechanisms are at play - one's that can explain the fossil record and other problems for the Modern Synthesis.


    “This is simply not true. Their position is not consistent with the observable evidence as I’ve demonstrated ad nauseum on this blog and even right here in these comments.”

    You've talked about the fossil record - but "evolution takes place" at the molecular level. It is at the molecular level that the theory needs to be debunked.

    Now, from what I've gathered, there are some pretty strong challenges to the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution at the molecular level. There are also some new ideas at the molecular level about how evolution can work (Evo Devo, Natural Genetic Engineering).

    Furthermore, some of the arguments that SOME SORT OF EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS took place are based on molecular evidence.


    “I can’t think of anything more rigorous than the presence of endlessly complex and purposeful phenomena appearing suddenly in the record. Try as you might, you will never be able to (read: I will never allow you to) circumvent this plain and simple piece of powerful evidence for maaseh bereishis as depicted in the Torah. Sudden and rapid creation is the only rational explanation for our observations of life on earth and our observations of the fossil record.”


    And an evolutionary biologist will propose various mechanisms to explain the sudden and rapid APPEARANCE of life in the fossil record and they will turn to DNA (and other) evidence to 'demonstrate' that we are all "related".

    I just don't think you can get away from the philosophical underpinnings of the issue.

    What's more, although I haven't rigorously studied materialistic philosophy, it seems to me that our philosophical/theological foundation is on MUCH MORE solid ground than theirs (but I'll save that discussion for another time).

    Furthermore, the moment that people realize that evolution is as much (if not more) a philosophical/theological idea as it is a scientific one they will relate to it differently.

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  17. Moshe,

    Shalom. Thank you for writing.

    I think this relates more towards the mechanism of evolution than the question of whether or not an evolutionary process happened. An evolutionary biologist could simply respond that different mechanisms are at play - one's that can explain the fossil record and other problems for the Modern Synthesis.

    Spoken like a true ma’amin. Unfortunately, your faith in the ability of “evolutionary biologists” is misplaced. If you study the professional scientific literature you will eventually discover that from an objective standpoint the fossil evidence contradicts the mainstream theory of evolution. Any appeal to “different mechanisms” is merely an apologetic. Furthermore, the “different mechanisms” must first be examined, no? Surely you would not expect someone to accept an evolutionary biologist’s word that a mechanism exists which can explain away the contradictory fossil evidence. So, are you prepared to present this mystery mechanism for analysis? Are you well-versed in its details such that are you ready to accept challenges? Be forewarned: I AM well-versed in mechanisms such as punctuated equilibrium. I have a whole slew of Gould’s books at home. So before you comment please make sure you are fully informed.

    Now, if you are not well-versed, then what gives you the right to dismiss my argument by simply averring that evolutionary biologists can dispute it? How do you know they can dispute it? Isn’t this precisely what we are talking about? My argument is based on common sense. You don’t need to have a PhD in stupidity (i.e. evolution) to understand it. What I am looking for is a common sense response based on evidence, not an appeal to blind faith! I wish you would understand this. It would save us both a lot of time…

    You've talked about the fossil record - but "evolution takes place" at the molecular level. It is at the molecular level that the theory needs to be debunked.

    Why? Evolution may take place at the molecular level on a mechanistic level but it is supposed to explain the presence of arms and legs and eyes and ears and wings and flippers and trunks and tails. Not to mention apples and oranges, leaves and dandelions. Oh, did I mention sentient human consciousness? The lack of fossil evidence demonstrates that the molecular mechanism does not exist. But don’t worry; evolution can also be debunked on the molecular level. I just wanted to make a point…

    Now, from what I've gathered, there are some pretty strong challenges to the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution at the molecular level.

    Correct! There sure are. So that wraps it up for us, no? (maybe not…)

    There are also some new ideas at the molecular level about how evolution can work (Evo Devo, Natural Genetic Engineering).

    They’re not new. And they’re not adequate. Evo Devo is just another attempt to revive the discredited evolutionary claim that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny and Natural Genetic Engineering is another way of re-stating the standard, and unproven, Darwinian claim that micro-evolutionary changes can somehow account for macro-evolutionary processes. If you’d like to discuss these ideas, by all means, broach the topic with me. But as I mentioned previously, please make sure you do your homework first.

    Continued in the next comment…

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  18. Furthermore, some of the arguments that SOME SORT OF EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS took place are based on molecular evidence.

    Please explain. Please don’t make nebulous and unsupported claims.

    I just don't think you can get away from the philosophical underpinnings of the issue.

    Perhaps. But as long as you do not respond to the scientific issues at hand, I am going to continue to maintain that evolution is false on its face, notwithstanding its philosophical underpinnings. And you know what else? As long as you are unable to respond to the scientific issues at hand, I am going to maintain that you need to maintain that evolution is false on its face, notwithstanding its philosophical underpinnings. How do you like that for chutzpah?

    Furthermore, the moment that people realize that evolution is as much (if not more) a philosophical/theological idea as it is a scientific one they will relate to it differently.

    I wish you were correct. Unfortunately, you’re not v’ein kan makom l’haarich…

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  19. Hello Rabbi,

    Let me try and simplify this conversation.

    Let's go back to the mouse gene inserted into the fruit-fly. The mere fact that two radically different animals can share genetic material which lead to a similar functional outcome in both animals seems to imply that there is a common source for that genetic material.

    Do you agree with that statement?

    If not, why not?

    Now, if one takes a materialistic, naturalistic philosophical position (one which does not allow for any Divine or Intelligent input or involvement), one can argue that this is evidence for a common ancestor even if one does not know HOW the mouse and fruit-fly evolved from that common ancestor. One may know nothing of the mechanism because clearly the genetic material has a common source.

    Do you not agree that from a materialistic, naturalistic perspective that is a rational argument?

    When answering that last question please do NOT bring up the fossil record, punctuated equilibrium or any other facts or information that you know about the theory of evolution. I am focusing on one piece of evidence. Does that one piece of evidence, from a materialistic point of view, lend credence to the idea that there is a common ancestor.

    In other words, even if there is OTHER EVIDENCE which CONTRADICTS this conclusion, can a materilist argue that this piece of evidence supports the hypothesis of common descent?

    If not, why not?

    Thanks and be well,

    Moshe

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  20. The above paragraph has a typo -- currently it reads as follows:


    Now, if one takes a materialistic, naturalistic philosophical position (one which does not allow for any Divine or Intelligent input or involvement), one can argue that this is evidence for a common ancestor even if one does not know HOW the mouse and fruit-fly evolved from that common ancestor. One may know nothing of the mechanism because clearly the genetic material has a common source.

    It should read like this:


    Now, if one takes a materialistic, naturalistic philosophical position (one which does not allow for any Divine or Intelligent input or involvement), one can argue that this is evidence for a common ancestor even if one does not know HOW the mouse and fruit-fly evolved from that common ancestor because clearly the genetic material has a common source.


    In other words, take out the phrase "One may know nothing of the mechanism"

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  21. Moshe,

    Let's go back to the mouse gene inserted into the fruit-fly. The mere fact that two radically different animals can share genetic material which lead to a similar functional outcome in both animals seems to imply that there is a common source for that genetic material.

    Do you agree with that statement?


    Yup.

    Now, if one takes a materialistic, naturalistic philosophical position (one which does not allow for any Divine or Intelligent input or involvement), one can argue that this is evidence for a common ancestor even if one does not know HOW the mouse and fruit-fly evolved from that common ancestor.

    The argument might be internally consistent but it’s not objective. You can’t refer to a conclusion based on a philosophical pre-supposition as scientific evidence.

    Do you not agree that from a materialistic, naturalistic perspective that is a rational argument?... When answering that last question please do NOT bring up the fossil record, punctuated equilibrium or any other facts or information that you know about the theory of evolution.

    If by “rational” you mean logically consistent, then yes, I agree. But who cares? Your point is irrelevant. Consider the following mashal from philosopher of science Eliott Sober:

    You and I are sitting in a cabin one night, and we hear rumbling in the attic. We consider what could have produced the noise. You suggest that the explanation is that there are gremlins in the attic and that they are bowling. I dismiss this explanation as implausible. Now, if there actually were gremlins bowling up there, we would indeed expect to hear the rumbling noise. But the mere fact that we hear the noise does not make it probable that there are gremlins bowling in the attic.

    You are asking me to respond to your question without taking into consideration everything I know about evolution but that’s the same as asking me to accept that gremlins are bowling in the attic. Everything I know about biology makes the theory of evolution highly improbable so who cares if evolutionary theory/gremlinian theory is consistent with the facts? Aren’t we trying to arrive at a plausible explanation for life based on objective observation?

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  22. Okay, great - I think we are getting somewhere :).

    Before I consider your Mashal, I would like to note what I understand to be the relationship between the work of Copernicus and Kepler.

    I read recently that Copernicus' system was LESS accurate than Ptolemy's and that it wasn't until Kepler that an accurate mathematical portrayal of the orbits was developed (with Newton building upon Kepler's work).

    Kepler saw in Copernicus' work a framework, a mode of looking at reality that needed to be worked out. The details weren't there - that required the data collected by Brahe and the analysis of Kepler.

    Now, in terms of evolution - people talk about the fact of evolution and the theory of evolution and one way that I have heard that used is that we know THAT evolution happened even if we do not know HOW evolution happened.

    In other words, even when scientists admit that they don't have a workable mechanism they still believe that some sort of evolutionary process happened and they just have to work on figuring out how.

    They don't mention Copernicus/Kepler, but that is the basic framework - that's how they instinctively see what is going on. The earth revolves around the sun, we just have to figure out how. Animals evolved one from the other, we just have to figure out how.

    That is where evidence such as mice and fruit fly genes come in. They will point to it and say see, there was clearly an evolutionary process - we now just have to figure out how it happened.

    And from their materialistic perspective this is a logically consistent position (I agree that logically consistent is a better term than rational). They ASSUME a naturalistic process, they find 'evidence' (or facts) which can be interpreted in line with that naturalistic perspective and that then sets for them a course of scientific study to work on.

    At it's heart, though, it is a manifestation of materialistic/naturalistic philosophy. The problem is that they pretend that it is scientific in the same sense as Newton's laws or even the discovery of DNA. They don't acknowledge that their theory is built upon and inherently depends upon a philosophical position.

    This is why I think one can only get so far by showing that any one mechanism won't work. All that means (from their perspective) is that they need to try again until they find a mechanism that does work.

    Only if one can demonstrate that it is technically impossible for one creature to evolve in any manner from another or positively show (or indicate) that it happened a different way can one undermine their belief that evolution happened (even if we don't know how).

    That's where the gremlin story, I think, comes to play. The neo-Darwinian mechanism is, in my mind, a gremlin. But that one animal can somehow or other evolve (that is change) into another via some sort of naturalistic process - I don't think that has been shown to be a gremlin yet.

    I'll stop for now and hear what you have to say.

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  23. Dear Moshe,

    I must say, I am impressed with your effort to remain as dispassionate as possible when evaluating evolution. You remind me of another individual who used to comment on this blog, Nachum. He too attempted to maintain as much objectivity as possible. All the power to you.

    This is why I think one can only get so far by showing that any one mechanism won't work. All that means (from their perspective) is that they need to try again until they find a mechanism that does work.

    I agree. But if we’ve arrived at this stage of understanding, you and I, then I’ve accomplished my goal on this blog. If you truly understand that evolutionists are really philosophers of atheism and will simply continue looking for means to support their pre-conceived notions, then I’m happy! Of course, this doesn’t mean I have nothing else to say… :-) … read on.

    Only if one can demonstrate that it is technically impossible for one creature to evolve in any manner from another or positively show (or indicate) that it happened a different way can one undermine their belief that evolution happened (even if we don't know how).

    (Moshe, please don’t be offended by my following comments. They are meant purely for your edification.)

    I’ve run into this type argument countless of times by individuals who know nothing about the scientific theory of evolution. They have this mystical idea of evolution and imagine that somehow scientists have the right to maintain the theory regardless of any evidence to the contrary. Let me set you straight. Real scientists understand that if they want to adhere to the philosophical dictates of Materialism, intellectual honesty necessitates the production of a rational explanation for the existence of the endlessly complex phenomenon of life on earth. Here’s a couple quotes from world-famous evolutionist Richard Dawkins. (my emphases)

    “Complicated things, everywhere, deserve a very special kind of explanation. We want to know how they came into existence and why they are so complicated… Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose… The systematic putting together of parts to a purposeful design is something we know and understand, for we have experienced it at first hand, even if only with our childhood Meccano or Erector set… What about our own bodies? Each one of us is a machine, like an airliner only much more complicated. Were we designed on a drawing board too, and were our parts assembled by a skilled engineer?...”

    This question begs to be answered! Our bodies look like they were purposefully designed! If we do not possess an explanation for how they possess this feature without intelligence, then intellectual honesty compels us to assume they were designed!

    Continued…

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  24. Now listen to this carefully because it directly relates to your comments. Dawkins writes as follows:

    “I feel more in common with the Reverend William Paley than I do with the distinguished modern philosopher, a well-known atheist, with whom I once discussed the matter at dinner. I said that I could not imagine being an atheist at any time before 1859, when Darwin's Origin of Species was published. 'What about Hume?', replied the philosopher. 'How did Hume explain the organized complexity of the living world?', I asked. 'He didn't', said the philosopher. 'Why does it need any special explanation?' Paley knew that it needed a special explanation; Darwin knew it, and I suspect that in his heart of hearts my philosopher companion knew it too. In any case it will be my business to show it here. As for David Hume himself, it is sometimes said that that great Scottish philosopher disposed of the Argument from Design a century before Darwin. But what Hume did was criticize the logic of using apparent design in nature as positive evidence for the existence of a God. He did not offer any alternative explanation for apparent design, but left the question open. An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: 'I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.' I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”

    You hear that Moshe!? Life requires an explanation! And William Paley’s explanation is the default explanation for the existence of complex biological phenomena. In order to unseat this explanation, you need to come up with a materialistic alternative which is tenable. You cannot claim that the evolutionary position can only be defeated if one can clearly “demonstrate that it is technically impossible for one creature to evolve in any manner from another”. This is just plain false. Intelligent Design makes sense. It is the obvious explanation for life. If one wishes to offer an alternative, ha’motzee mei’chaveiro alav ha’ri’ayah…

    Incidentally, what is incredible about this quote from Dawkins is that he even rejects Hume’s position as a satisfactory explanation for the presence of life. Of course, not only was Hume unsatisfactory, he was incoherent. But we’ll have to leave that for another time…

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  25. Hello Rabbi,

    I enjoyed your response - please see some of my thoughts on comments on it below:

    YOU WROTE:
    If you truly understand that evolutionists are really philosophers of atheism and will simply continue looking for means to support their pre-conceived notions, then I’m happy!


    I would state it as philosophers of materialism or naturalism. Keneth Miller described himself as a materialist and yet he believes in G-d. Stephen Meyer in his book Signature of the Cell notes that there are people who hold by Intelligent Design (or 'design theorists' as he likes to call them ) who maintain that there was a totally naturalistic method by which the universe and life developed.

    I know you have argued strongly, and well, that the Torah rejects such a position, but that is (I believe) a separate issue. In other words, one can believe in a naturalistic and/or materiastic process and not be an atheist (they may be mistaken about how G-d created the world, but they could still believe in a G-d).

    [Note - I do not know much about the history of the philosophy of materialism or naturalism, perhaps its roots are steeped in atheism - I'm not sure]


    Either way, in terms of the philosophical foundation (regardless of which type of philosophy) of the theory of evolution - I think we are in agreement it is this point that I think needs to be noted and clearly demonstrated. I think one of the things that muddies the waters in this debate (besides the fact that science is technical) is that people do not realize that evolution depends upon a particular philosophical foundation, one that is not inherently obvious or true and that the same evidence can often times point to HaKadosh Baruch Hu if one assumes a different philosophical foundation (one that may be more reasonable to assume and which is more in line with the Torah).

    That is why sometimes I say, okay - that's a valid point IF you assume a materialistic perspective. I can then shift the debate and ask "Why I should assume such a perspective? Why should I be a materialist? Why can't I look at the same evidence from a non-materialistic point of view?"

    I think shifting the debate is more intellectually honest, more educational and tactically a better strategy. I can then focus on the larger, more fundamental issues and not feel compelled to fight every single piece of evidence offered. That is the point that I am trying to get to in this back and forth.

    [to be continued]

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  26. Part 2:

    YOU WROTE:
    I’ve run into this type argument countless of times by individuals who know nothing about the scientific theory of evolution. They have this mystical idea of evolution and imagine that somehow scientists have the right to maintain the theory regardless of any evidence to the contrary. Let me set you straight. Real scientists understand that if they want to adhere to the philosophical dictates of Materialism, intellectual honesty necessitates the production of a rational explanation for the existence of the endlessly complex phenomenon of life on earth.

    I agree, but with one qualification. It's scientifically legitimate to state that one wants to try and discover a mechanism vis-a-vis which life evolved. Past failures, lack of evidence, even contradictory evidence doesn't undermine the legitimacy of that PURSUIT. One will, of course, have to take those factors into account, but one can believe inherently that there is a solution to be found and that they are going to try and find it.

    The problem comes - and I think this is what you are getting at - when one PRETENDS that they still have it figured out. If evolutionary biologists would be more honest about what they know then this whole public debate wouldn't exist.

    Personally speaking, I would be satisfied if evolutionary biologists would state something like the following:

    "We believe that life developed through some sort of evolutionary process [list reasons why they believe that]. We thought the neo-Darwinian mechanism explained how evolution worked, but scientific discoveries have shown method to be inadequate to the task at hand [explain why].

    However, we are still confident that it is possible to discover such a mechanism [explain why].

    We also admit that currently we have no explanation for the origin of life or the Cambrian explosion and that these events seem to defy a naturalistic explanation [explain why]. Nonetheless, we still believe that a naturalistic explanation is possible [explain why] and we are actively working to discover such a reason."

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  27. As I write this I am reminded of the following exchange between Michael Ruse and William F. Buckley in their 1997 debate on evolution:

    MR: Um, let me kick off Mr. Buckley. I guess my basic question is, why are you on that side rather than ours? [audience chuckles] I mean, are your objections religious? Are you against evolution? Are you against natural selection? Are your objections religious? Are they social, or what?

    WB: Well, I -- I object to the way in which your confederates -- we'll leave you out of it, as a matter of politesse -- conduct themselves. They conduct themselves by simply assuming that people who argue the contrary, are naives or ignorant. It seems to me manifestly they are not. But my objection to your position is its ideological fixity. What you're speaking from is a dogmatic position, from which everything else derives, as one would expect. Right? [audience chuckles]

    MR: I can't help feeling that at Seton Hall University, speaking from a dogmatic position is not necessarily a fault. Um -- [chuckles]

    WB: Well, no. That's -- that's quite correct. If you could give us a progenitor more conclusive than Darwin, we might accept his dogmas. The notion that all dogmas are equal is -- what?

    MK: False.

    WB: Well, at least false. But it's also -- it's also a disguise really for -- for unmethodical thought, I would guess. Go ahead, what -- what line are you pursuing?

    MR: Well, I -- I -- basically I'm trying to understand why it is that you're against evolution. I mean, I could well understand -- is it because Richard Dawkins has linked evolution with atheism? Is it because some evolutionists have been socialists? Why? Because if it is, we'll give you a list that you'd like.

    WB: No, let's not be silly. The -- for scientific materialists the materialism comes first, the science comes thereafter. So my quarrel, and that of most of my colleagues is with the -- the extent to which you seek to imperialize over the entire question to the point of opposing creationist thought in scientific departments within the schools. It seems to me quite unnecessary in order to advance your own postulates.

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  28. Hello Rabbi,

    Great quotes from The Blind Watchmaker (that book, by the way, gave me tremendous Chizuk - hearing him describe the brilliant design of the bat made me say ma rabu maasecha hashem).

    With that said, the point that you wanted to make:

    You hear that Moshe!? Life requires an explanation! And William Paley’s explanation is the default explanation for the existence of complex biological phenomena. In order to unseat this explanation, you need to come up with a materialistic alternative which is tenable. You cannot claim that the evolutionary position can only be defeated if one can clearly “demonstrate that it is technically impossible for one creature to evolve in any manner from another”. This is just plain false. Intelligent Design makes sense. It is the obvious explanation for life. If one wishes to offer an alternative, ha’motzee mei’chaveiro alav ha’ri’ayah…


    The special explanation that Dawkins is seeking to offer in The Blind Watchmaker is not that some sort of evolutionary process happened, but that a very particular type happened. Namely an UNGUIDED, UNPLANNED process (aka random variation and natural selection).

    Guided evolution and Paley can go hand in hand. The argument from design merely states that ULTIMATELY SPEAKING there is a designer who SOMEHOW OR OTHER is responsible for the sophisticated, complex, functional design that we see in the world.

    In other words, the argument from design says nothing of HOW that designer worked. REVELATION may have something to say about HOW creation took place, but that is revealed information, not derived information from observing the natural world.

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  29. Moshe,

    I would state it as philosophers of materialism or naturalism.

    There’s no real difference. The philosophy of Materialism maintains that the only thing that exists is matter and all phenomena including even the sentient human mind are the result of material interactions. It’s a cause and effect world and every effect is preceded by a material cause. God is excluded from the equation by definition.

    Keneth Miller described himself as a materialist and yet he believes in G-d.

    Kenneth Miller is a methodological naturalist, not a materialist. Scientists such as Ken Miller are conflicted individuals, much like Rabbi Slifkin. In fact, Rabbi Slifkin’s approach is almost identical to Ken Miller’s. In order to avoid the implications of Materialist philosophy, Miller v’siyato adopt the idea that when it comes to science, all hypotheses, theories, and events are to be explained and tested solely by reference to natural causes. This is methodological naturalism. It is concerned with the methods of science. To their minds this allows them to believe in God while simultaneously plying their scientific trade as if He doesn’t exist. To a certain extent this is even worse than Materialism. It’s hypocritical. Science is a discipline which endeavors to explain the nature of empirical phenomena. If you believe in an Intelligent Designer Who “kick started’ the universe, how can you practice science as if He doesn’t exist? At least Materialists are not hypocrites.

    Stephen Meyer in his book Signature of the Cell notes that there are people who hold by Intelligent Design (or 'design theorists' as he likes to call them ) who maintain that there was a totally naturalistic method by which the universe and life developed.

    Irrelevant. Listen Moshe, there’s something you need to understand about Intelligent Design. It is a wonderful movement and in fact I often say that Philip Johnson is one of the chasidei umos ha’olam. But don’t be naïve. If you follow the theory of ID to its logical conclusion, an Intelligent Designer is directly implicated in practically everything we see. Don’t forget; evolutionists do not possess a detailed testable scientific pathway for even a single organism on earth, not on a micro level nor on a macro level. Evolution is scientific rubbish mi’techila v’ad sof. The reason ID proponents such as Meyer like to point to the fact that ID has an eclectic group of adherents including those who believe in naturalistic methods for the unfolding of the universe is because he is trying to demonstrate that ID is a scientific theory rather than a religious one. I happen to agree with his approaches because it’s the only possible way Intelligent Design will ever have a chance of being accepted as an alternative to Evolution in academic circles and perhaps even taught in our classrooms. But people like Meyer have gotten into trouble with the Christian scientists who claim that ID is logically inconsistent and the truth is the Creationists are right. You need to keep that in mind.

    I know you have argued strongly, and well, that the Torah rejects such a position, but that is (I believe) a separate issue. In other words, one can believe in a naturalistic and/or materiastic process and not be an atheist

    I’ve written extensively about this position, especially on this blog. If you’re interested in my analysis, please see my series of posts beginning with this one entitled What’s Wrong With Rabbi Slifkin’s Theology. Pay special attention to my third post in this series which appears in December of 2010.

    Continued…

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  30. I think one of the things that muddies the waters in this debate…is that people do not realize that evolution depends upon a particular philosophical foundation…and that the same evidence can often times point to HaKadosh Baruch Hu…

    I beg to differ. I have written extensively about both these things on this blog and in other venues and so have countless other people (see for instance the first post in the previously mentioned series). The waters are not muddy. The problem is the theory of evolution itself! I know the following is a theological statement rather than a rational one and I try and stay away from such statements on this blog but sometimes it is unavoidable. The theory of evolution is apikorsus. It is currently the greatest tool in the arsenal of the Yetzer Hara and he uses it extensively to blind mankind to the Great Truth of our universe. The problem is, once someone has evolution in his mind it is very difficult to get it out. The yetzer hara refuses to allow the person to think! Anyone who possesses a sechel haYashar can see that the countless phenomena of our world possess endless wisdom, design, plan and purpose. When Adam haRishon opened his eyes and saw the world for the first time, he didn’t think “naturalistic causes”! It’s only us dummies who grow up in a society and are surrounded by a culture which promotes this ideology incessantly. It is foisted upon all of the young minds who attend our publicly funded institutions of learning. Like my Rebbe used to say, a degree from university is a document which testifies that the bearer’s mind has been officially corrupted and he is now qualified to go out into the world and corrupt other people’s minds.

    I think shifting the debate is more intellectually honest, more educational and tactically a better strategy. I can then focus on the larger, more fundamental issues and not feel compelled to fight every single piece of evidence offered. That is the point that I am trying to get to in this back and forth.

    Well, I disagree with you regarding the first sentence of your paragraph but I understand where you’re coming from. As it happens, I have studied the theory at length and am qualified to “fight every piece of evidence offered” so from my perspective it is more efficacious, and certainly more educational, to show that evolution is false on its face then to concede and shift the argument to the idea that the existing evidence is also consistent with God. I of course make the latter argument too but it is only one in a slew of available counter-evolutionary arguments. To my mind, the more we show the ridiculousness of the theory, the more we show its total lack of evidence and the more we demonstrate its inconsistency with logic, the more we will be mechazek the minds of people who are open-minded and willing to entertain the idea that maybe evolution is wrong. Of course it also serves to be mechazek people who already believe and the truth is this is much more important than the former endeavor.

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  31. Moshe,

    It's scientifically legitimate to state that one wants to try and discover a mechanism vis-a-vis which life evolved. Past failures, lack of evidence, even contradictory evidence doesn't undermine the legitimacy of that PURSUIT.

    Really? Says who? Do you think it is scientifically legitimate to try and discover a mechanism for how, say, computers evolved naturalistically without an intelligent designer? If not, consider the following. On the backbone of the DNA helix there exists four nucleobases and the sequence of these nucleobases contains the coding for all the information relating to the development of the organism. Furthermore, the material necessary to carry out these instructions is also present. Now, a computer is basically a Turing machine. But here’s the catch. The description of the DNA molecule which I provided above fully satisfies the mathematical model of a Turing machine. So, if you do not think it is legitimate to pursue a theory which accounts for the presence of computers naturalistically, then why do you feel it is legitimate to pursue said theory when it comes to the cell? Are you able to provide me with a principled distinction between the two? If not, shouldn’t you abandon your assertion re the legitimacy of pursuing a naturalistic theory for the supposed evolution of life?

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  32. Moshe,

    The problem comes - and I think this is what you are getting at - when one PRETENDS that they still have it figured out. If evolutionary biologists would be more honest about what they know then this whole public debate wouldn't exist.

    I’m sorry Moshe but once again I must disagree with you. (I hope you are not turned off chs’v. I rarely disagree so much with someone who is essentially trying to adopt my general position but I feel you can handle it and I think you can benefit from my remarks.) Real evolutionists don’t pretend, at least not when they are presenting scientific data in a professional setting such as peer-reviewed journals and the like. And I have in my possession countless quotes and reams of scientific data from professional evolutionists all conceding to the basic lack of evidence for evolution. Forget about your sister who comes home from her tenth grade biology class and tells you that her teacher officially announced that evolution is a proven fact. Forget about all the nonsense you read in low-level textbooks and all the media hype you encounter in the newspapers and hear on the radio and television. If you want to understand evolution, you must study it properly. And if you study evolution properly you will slowly begin to realize that evolutionary theory is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind! It is a bigger hoax than avodah zara! It’s not that professional evolutionary biologists are dishonest about the data. It’s that they adhere to evolution despite the data! Why? Because currently science does not possess any other materialistic paradigm to explain the presence of life. Until someone comes up with another materialistic theory scientists are going to stand behind evolution through thick and thin. I’ve written a lot about the philosophy of science on this blog and on other venues so I don’t want to get into it at length but here’s a quote for you from one of the senior evolutionary biologists today, Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin: (my emphases)

    Continued…

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  33. Here’s Lewontin…

    “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.”

    So, does that sound to you like Lewontin is hiding anything? He concedes that some of the claims found in mainstream evolution are patently absurd, counter-intuitive and unsubstantiated. Nevertheless we must hold on to evolution because we can’t let a Divine Foot in the door! No one is hiding anything here. The only ones who are hiding anything are the silly and misguided people who swallow lock stock and barrel everything they read in the New York Times about evolution and when they are confronted with counter evidence by people like Simcha Coffer the “meshuganeh creationist on the anti-Slifkin blog”, they hide their heads in the sand and refuse to face reality.

    Phew! I think you pushed a button! I’m ranting and raving… I think I’ll call it a night for now…

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  34. Hello Rabbi,

    Before I relate to your comments above, I think the most important comment I wrote earlier you didn't respond to, and that was about Richard Dawkins.

    Here is the comment again:

    The special explanation that Dawkins is seeking to offer in The Blind Watchmaker is not that some sort of evolutionary process happened, but that a very particular type happened. Namely an UNGUIDED, UNPLANNED process (aka random variation and natural selection).

    Guided evolution and Paley can go hand in hand. The argument from design merely states that ULTIMATELY SPEAKING there is a designer who SOMEHOW OR OTHER is responsible for the sophisticated, complex, functional design that we see in the world.

    In other words, the argument from design says nothing of HOW that designer worked. REVELATION may have something to say about HOW creation took place, but that is revealed information, not derived information from observing the natural world.


    Your thoughts?

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  35. Moshe,

    Before I relate to your comments above, I think the most important comment I wrote earlier you didn't respond to, and that was about Richard Dawkins.

    Here is the comment again:


    Great quotes from The Blind Watchmaker (that book, by the way, gave me tremendous Chizuk - hearing him describe the brilliant design of the bat made me say ma rabu maasecha hashem).

    Oh boy…

    I have a suggestion for you. Read Rav Avigdor Miller’s books on hashkafa (Rejoice O Youth, Awake My Glory and Sing You Righteous) and keep your ears glued to his lectures. They possess countless examples of the brilliant design in the beriah.

    The special explanation that Dawkins is seeking to offer in The Blind Watchmaker is not that some sort of evolutionary process happened, but that a very particular type happened. Namely an UNGUIDED, UNPLANNED process (aka random variation and natural selection).

    This is not a “particular” type of evolutionary theory. It is the theory of evolution. As Dawkins explains there, until Darwin came along it was not intellectually “fulfilling” to reject Intelligent Design. William Paley’s argument made sense. And even after Darwin, evolution suffered setbacks. When science finally paid attention to the experiments of Gregor Mendel, Darwin’s idea of natural selection almost died. But then Hugo Devries formulated the concept of random mutation and evolutionary scientists such as Simpson, Dobzhansky, Fischer and Wright adopted it. They appealed to the idea of random mutation as a means of accounting for variation in the species and, along with Darwinian natural selection, incorporated it into a new-and-improved version of evolution referred to as the neo-Darwinian synthesis. This is the theory of evolution, plain and simple. There isn’t any other naturalistic theory. It’s either evolution or design. Please keep that in mind.

    Guided evolution and Paley can go hand in hand. The argument from design merely states that ULTIMATELY SPEAKING there is a designer who SOMEHOW OR OTHER is responsible for the sophisticated, complex, functional design that we see in the world.

    Think Moshe, think! Evolution is a very specific theory. It strives to describe the unfolding of life on earth in a manner which is entirely consistent with Materialism. God is not necessary! Darwin wrote that if at any step in the process God would have to be invoked, this would summarily destroy his theory. William Paley was a Christian minister. He was trying to prove the existence of a Grand Designer. He looked at the design-like properties manifest in life and compared them to a watch. Would you say that “guided watch-making” goes hand in hand with Paley? Maybe. But it sounds ridiculous! Paley never meant that. If you see a watch, the common sense assumption is that the designer assembled it in the most direct fashion available to him. The only reason anyone would want to subscribe to “guided” evolution is because they have issues with rejecting the theory of evolution. Once you adopt the reality of a Divine Being, evolution becomes irrelevant. Guided evolution is nothing more than a cheap panacea. It is a facile formula specifically designed to assuage the internal conflict that invariably attends the adoption of both evolution and God.

    Continued…

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  36. In other words, the argument from design says nothing of HOW that designer worked. REVELATION may have something to say about HOW creation took place, but that is revealed information, not derived information from observing the natural world.


    Your thoughts?


    My thoughts are that information derived from an observation of the natural world contradicts evolutionary theory. Our observations indicate that complex life appeared suddenly. It did not mutate over billions of years.

    You are right. The argument from design, per se, is incapable of addressing the specific method of design utilized by a transcendental Designer. However, it is able to rule out evolutionary theory as a reasonable candidate. Why? Because if you conclude that a Grand Designer is capable of creating the world rapidly, you need to provide a good reason for why He utilized a method that took longer than necessary. In fact, Chazal say the same thing. They ask: Why did Hashem utilize Ten Sayings to Create the world? Couldn’t He have Created it in One?

    Moshe, everything I have written in this comment thread has already been noted by me in various posts on this blog. I am putting in the extra effort and repeating all the material in the hopes that it might have at least somewhat of an affect on your way of thinking. If there is anything I would like you to take from our interchange, it is the commitment that you will take under serious advisement the fact that evolutionary theory is entirely unsupported and that our long-standing mesorah of a recent and rapid creation is perfectly consistent with our empirical observations of the universe. What you do with this information is taluy solely on your bechira. I enjoin you to choose life! (pun intended… :-)

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  37. Hello Rabbi,

    You wrote:
    This is not a “particular” type of evolutionary theory. It is the theory of evolution.


    Well, here is a book by Professor James A. Shapiro from the University of Chicago where he proposes a new and different theory: http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-View-Century-Press-Science/dp/0132780933

    Note this quote about the book:
    "Today, we endeavor to understand how new vital capacities arose in the course of evolution during at least 3.5 billion tumultuous years of earth history. Two broad lines of research have made it possible to formulate a new vision of the evolutionary process. One examines how cells regulate the expression, reproduction, transmission and restructuring of their DNA molecules. The other comprises advances in studying interspecific hybridization, symbiogenesis, epigenetics, horizontal DNA transfer and mobile genetic elements. 21st Century evolution science explains abrupt events in the DNA and fossil records. Moreover, this contemporary mode of thinking makes it possible to envisage realistic paths to complex evolutionary innovations."

    Now, I'm not saying he is right or that he has succeeded. But he is trying to put out a new and different mechanism for evolution.


    Michael Denton in his book Natural Destiny talks about Guided Evolution.


    Michael Behe writes in Darwin's Black Box that he knows of no reason to doubt common descent.

    Please note, I am not saying that I believe in guided evolution or that it has been demonstrated or has even evidence for it. I am merely trying to make a simple point - that one can believe that life developed by animals changing from one species to another vis-a-vis a natural process but not know how that actually happened.

    Again, think of the Copernicus example. He couldn't explain the evidence, but his framework eventually came to be accepted.


    I think the heart of our disagreement is that you associate the entire theory of evolution with random mutations plus natural selection and I understand that to be the standard mechanism for explaining evolution, but that there are scientists who hold that other mechanisms are (theoretically) possible.


    My point, by the way, about guided evolution is that the IDEA of a naturalistic mechanism for the creation of life does not contradict the idea of a creator if that mechanism seems guided, planned and purpose oriented.

    The reason why Dawkins thinks evolution allows him to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist is because he thinks the process is unguided and unplanned and with no forethought.

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  38. Moshe,

    Sorry for the delay. I was tied up.

    Well, here is a book by Professor James A. Shapiro from the University of Chicago where he proposes a new and different theory:

    That’s nice… so what? Surely you are not proposing that because a scientist writes a book, this changes the whole face of evolution. In any case, it’s irrelevant. Shapiro is not proposing anything new and he is not altering the basic neo-Darwinian paradigm for evolution. It’s still the same old Darwinian Natural Selection working on genetic variation. He’s changed the parameters of the variation mechanism a bit, but that’s all. More on this shortly…

    You delineated a quote from an unnamed source describing the book. Allow me to take you through the quote piece by piece so you understand precisely what’s going on. Here goes.

    "Today, we endeavor to understand how new vital capacities arose in the course of evolution during at least 3.5 billion tumultuous years of earth history.”

    “New vital capacities”. You know what that means? It means that for 150 years, the theory of Evolution has been plagued by a total lack of feasible “capacities”. How did a reptile transform into a bird? How did a terrestrial ungulate manage to transform into a whale? These are important questions but thus far evolution has not answered them. It has proposed that this process did indeed occur but it has not even begun to explain the capacity for such a process to occur. It has failed to provide even one single detailed testable Darwinian pathway for the evolution of any of the millions of species on earth. Let’s go on.

    “Two broad lines of research have made it possible to formulate a new vision of the evolutionary process. One examines how cells regulate the expression, reproduction, transmission and restructuring of their DNA molecules.”

    I’ve studied this field and it’s a dead end. In fact, it turns out to be a disconfirmation for mainstream evolutionary theory and does nothing to advance alternative forms. There’s much to say about this but it’s not for now. Let’s move on to the second, more important line of research.

    Continued in the next comment

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  39. “The other comprises advances in studying interspecific hybridization, symbiogenesis, epigenetics, horizontal DNA transfer and mobile genetic elements.”

    OK. Now we’re talking. Without getting too technical, these various lines of research stress cooperation amongst cells rather than the standard evolutionary paradigm of competition. But here’s the thing, this is nothing new! Symbiogenesis has been around for quite some time and scientists have had plenty of time to analyze it. So far it’s a dead end. There was a lady scientist who started this whole trend quite a while ago (Margolis) but her theories have not gained credibility amongst mainstream evolutionists. Ditto for lateral gene transfer. Incidentally, Darwin’s tree of life would have to be trashed (I’m exaggerating a little bit but not by much), new phylogenies created etc. Even the standard way of understanding common ancestry would have to be revised and as it turns out common ancestry is not so common after all, at least not according to this permutation of the theory. But it’s all bubba ma’asos anyway. It’s all just speculation. There has been very little research in this field and all of it has been done on a molecular level. There is no evidence whatsoever that once you have a multi-cellular macro organism, like, say, two species of chimps, that one chimp can walk over to the other seven million years ago and say, “here you go buddy, here are some of my genes. Between the two of us and all of our progeny, if we try hard enough and long enough and just keep on passing along our genes to other species of chimps, eventually we will produce Moshe and Simcha”. In fact, there’s very little evidence that this can happen on a molecular level either. Genetic information is passed down vertically, on a molecular level via cell division, and on a macro level via other forms of reproduction of the species. That’s an observable fact. The capacity for LGT and the existence of mobile genetic elements is purely speculative at this time.

    Look Moshe, you are somewhat correct. These lines of research are indeed a deviation from the standard approach to evolution. But what you must understand is that at their heart they are really the same. The only real difference is that they strive to eliminate the obvious problems associated with the lack of time available for variation to occur in a species. They are driven by the need to maintain the well-established theory of evolutionary chance+necessity but realize that it is entirely untenable so they tweak the chance part in order to make it more palatable. Gould also tried to tackle this problem but his theories re the rate and process of genetic mutations were simply not accepted by mainstream biologists and geneticists and likewise these lines of research have also not gained acceptance by the scientific community, at least not yet. More on this shortly.

    Continued in the next comment

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  40. Here’s where it all comes together Moshe…

    “21st Century evolution science explains abrupt events in the DNA and fossil records.”

    Aha! So this is what it’s all about! Saltationism and Hopeful Monsters! Somehow envisioning the abrupt appearance of new genetic information and thereby justifying the glaring lack of fossil transitions in the record. Well, that would be very nice for evolutionists wouldn’t it? As the author goes on to say,

    “Moreover, this contemporary mode of thinking makes it possible to envisage realistic paths to complex evolutionary innovations."

    The problem is Saltationism is nothing new. It began a hundred years ago and came to a peak about 65 years ago and then died an ignoble death. No scientist worth his salt would even entertain such a thing. So, James Shapiro would like you to believe that with some new fields of research we can revive old and defunct theories. Good for him. You know what I say? Let him prove it. Until then his theories are no different than what we’ve been hearing for 150 years. It’s all speculative drivel fueled by the need to explain life in purely materialistic terms.

    But here’s an even more important point. Pay attention to the final sentence in the quote. Here it is again.

    “Moreover, this contemporary mode of thinking makes it possible to envisage realistic paths to complex evolutionary innovations."

    You know what that means? It means that everything you’ve been fed about Evolution your whole life up until now is essentially impossible to envision realistically. And this is what evolutionists have been foisting on the public for over 150 years! You think that’s science? That’s not science! It’s Scientism. It’s dogma. It’s a theory that possesses no evidence, is actually contradicted by the evidence, and contradicts logic. Its constructs are so absurd, so wildly unrealistic, that scientists can’t even envision how it could have occurred! And this is what you are defending??? (I know, not personally). This is what you are trying to tell me is a valid scientific pursuit of knowledge for the materialist scientist just because his perspective is materialist? I think not.

    Shapiro is on the same path, trust me. Saltationism might be making a resurgence along with other discredited theories such as ontogenic recapitulation (today they call it evo-devo) but who cares. It’s all marshmallow fluff. It’s all empty theories being regurgitated again with a few twists in order to make it palatable. Evolutionists are just a bunch of academic nincompoops running around in circles trying to justify their ridiculous weltanschauung by using a lot of fancy words and introducing a whole lot of confusion in the world. No evolutionist ever contributed a positive thing to society. Not even one. Their vacuous theories have not yielded a single technological advance for mankind. All we get from them is heartache. These guys should get a life! Ah well… as they say in Eretz Yisrael, gam zeh ya’avor.

    Continued in the next comment

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  41. Michael Denton in his book Natural Destiny talks about Guided Evolution.

    Well, nobody’s perfect…

    Michael Behe writes in Darwin's Black Box that he knows of no reason to doubt common descent.

    Ditto.

    Note: I am not denigrating these great people. It took a lot of courage, fortitude, and intellectual honesty for them to do what they did and we owe them an endless debt of hakaras hatov. But that doesn’t mean that everything they say is halacha l’moshe miSinai. I also consider myself an ID proponent but as you mentioned yourself, we’re an eclectic bunch. I don’t hold of guided evolution and I believe that the fossil evidence clearly contradicts evolutionary common descent as any paleontologist will tell you privately. Remember the Shapiro thing? Remember the quote “21st Century evolution science explains abrupt events in the DNA and fossil records.”? Well, without Shapiro’s hypotheses, apparently evolution is incapable of explaining abrupt events in DNA and therefore abrupt events in the fossil record indicate the appearance of sudden, fully formed un-descended species, not descended ones. I think I mentioned this argument on this blog about a thousand times by now…

    I am merely trying to make a simple point - that one can believe that life developed by animals changing from one species to another vis-a-vis a natural process but not know how that actually happened.

    Yes, I know the point you are trying to make. But what I am telling you (and have already told you) is that your point is equivalent to stating that:

    I am merely trying to make a simple point - that one can believe that time-pieces developed by watches changing from one type to another vis-a-vis a natural process but not know how that actually happened.

    I don’t know if you personally believe that such a belief is rational, much less scientific, but I can guarantee you that no evolutionist would adopt such a position. So if they adopt it for evolution, they’re hypocrites. And if you adopt it for a watch, then you and I are talking past each other, not to each other. Unfortunately, we simply do not possess the common ground necessary to maintain a meaningful dialogue.

    Continued in the next comment

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  42. I think the heart of our disagreement is that you associate the entire theory of evolution with random mutations plus natural selection and I understand that to be the standard mechanism for explaining evolution, but that there are scientists who hold that other mechanisms are (theoretically) possible.

    No. That’s not the heart of our disagreement. That’s merely a description of some of the technical details as they relate to our respective positions. In my opinion the heart of our disagreement, using your words with my modifications inserted, is that I associate the entire theory of evolution with wild, unverified, illogical unreasonable materialistic dogma, and you understand that since there are currently scientists who hold that other mechanisms are theoretically possible, they have the right, from their materialistic perspective, to pursue their theories as part of the general scientific enterprise.

    Moshe, I’ve attempted to make my case to you at length. Either I’ve succeeded or I’ve failed. But frankly I don’t believe further discussion will convince you and I’m pretty sure that further discussion won’t convince me. We’ve outlined our respective positions at length; perhaps we should just leave it at that.

    My point, by the way, about guided evolution is that the IDEA of a naturalistic mechanism for the creation of life does not contradict the idea of a creator if that mechanism seems guided, planned and purpose oriented.

    Perhaps. But as it happens it contradicts the Torah’s description of the Creator and it contradicts the fundamental tenets of evolutionary theory. So what good is it? It is hopelessly conflicted. Even Ken Miller, the great rebbe of theistic evolution, claims the opposite of what you claim as “guided” evolution. Miller will tell you that evolutionary mechanisms do not “seem guided planned and purpose oriented”. If he said that, he’d get kicked out of Brown University before you could say Jack Robinson. I wrote to him once about this apparent conflict and asked him how he felt he could resolve the purposeless nature of the mechanism with his claim that ultimately God intended mankind to exist. I asked him what would happen if the clock was turned back 4 billion years. Would man appear again? He said yes. So I asked him to reconcile that with his assertion that evolution is an unguided process. He responded by pointing me to some papers he wrote. It was a short chat. I wasn’t impressed…

    Continued in the next comment

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  43. Since we’re on the topic of leading evolutionists, I also wrote Richard Lewontin of Harvard, probably the most senior evolutionist alive today. He’s Jewish by the way. Oh, and also, he thinks Dawkins is an idiot (slight exaggeration… maybe…he definitely thinks his presentation of evolution is clearly contradicted by the advances made in the fields of genetics. He thinks Dawkins makes wild and unsubstantiated statements… I can prove that to you if you want…). I asked him why he was so confident in evolutionary theory as opposed to an intelligent designer in light of the book review he wrote of Carl Sagan wherein he clearly confessed the a priori materialistic assumptions of scientists. You know what he wrote me? He wrote something like “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve never had use for religion…” That was it. That was his answer. I kid you not. The man is a genius but he is totally blind. He walks in darkness. He never even bothered considering the possibility of an intelligent designer because something in his youth turned him off from religion. These are the type of people the olam golem quotes with awe and reverence and allow themselves to be influenced by their opinions such that they feel the need to reconcile, modify and sometimes out-rightly reject the well-founded traditions of our mesorah… unbelievable…

    The reason why Dawkins thinks evolution allows him to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist is because he thinks the process is unguided and unplanned and with no forethought.

    Yes. And the reason Dawkins thinks that the process of evolution is unguided and unplanned is because the theory of evolution makes the fundamental claim that the process of evolution is unguided! Of course Dawkins thinks that! Every evolutionist thinks that! Ken Miller thinks that too…

    I think we’re going in circles Moshe… I’m getting dizzy… be well…

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  44. Hello Rabbi,

    I agree that we should probably wrap up this discussion - but with that said, I still have some responses to what you wrote :).


    From what I understand about Professor James A. Shapiro (I just started his book) is that he basically thinks that evolution was programmed in from the beginning. It's supposedly a radical departure from the Modern Synthesis and he emphasises that the processes that he is talking about are NOT random and that chance and/or chance mutations do NOT play a role.

    In terms of Denton and Behe (or Shapiro, for that matter). I'm not saying they are right. I'm just saying that there are scientists who hold by the idea of common descent even though they disagree with the random mutation part (and perhaps more).

    With that said, let me clarify what I mean by evolution is a legitimate scientific pursuit. I don't mean that I think it should get funding. I don't mean that I think it's a good area of pursuit. But that is true for many areas of scientific study. There are many dead ends in science. Overall it's probably healthy for scientists to have the freedom to pursue really bad ideas. It allows for a certain creativity, flexibility , etc. As such, if a scientists has a hypothesis and would like to pursue that hypothesis, I have no beef with that.

    Where I object is where they take an unproven, crazy idea and promote it to the banner of absolute truth because a) the idea sounds plausible and b) the idea "just happen" to totally undermine tradition and belief in G-d. But if the ideas merely stayed crazy ideas in some esoteric research project somewhere with little to any cultural (or scientific) influence then I don't think either of us would get excited by it. We would have said - prove it and then we'll talk.

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  45. In terms of every evolutionist thinks that - but didn't I just give you three examples of three scientists who don't think that? Again, I'm not saying they are right (or even mainstream), just that they reject the idea of an unguided process while holding to the idea of some sort of evolutionary process. Look at these quotes from Professor Behe:

    "The book’s subtitle speaks of the “limits of Darwinism.” Are you saying that Darwin’s theory is completely wrong?
    Not at all. It is an excellent explanation for some features of life, but it has sharp limits. Darwin’s theory is an amalgam of several concepts: 1) random mutation, 2) natural selection, and 3) common descent. Common descent and natural selection are very well-supported. Random mutation isn’t. Random mutation is severely constrained. So the process which produced the elegant structures of life could not have been random."

    "How does intelligent design differ from the prevailing Darwinist view of evolution?
    To a surprising extent prevailing evolutionary theory and intelligent design are harmonious. Both agree that the universe and life unfolded over vast ages; both agree that species could follow species in the common descent of life. They differ solely in the overriding role Darwinism ascribes to randomness. Intelligent design says that, while randomness does exist, its role in explaining the unfolding of life is quite limited."

    "In Edge of Evolution you indicate that some of the evidence supporting common ancestry is pretty persuasive. Yet a number of scientists have questioned some of the evidence for common ancestry. Do you think it is beyond the pale for them to do so? In your mind is it scientific to question common ancestry?
    In my view it is certainly not “beyond the pale” for a scientist to question anything. Questioning and skepticism are healthy for science. I have no solutions to the difficult problems pointed to by scientists who are skeptical of universal common descent: ORFan genes, nonstandard genetic codes, different routes of embryogenesis by similar organisms, and so on. Nonetheless, as I see it, if, rather than Darwinian evolution, one is talking about "intelligently designed" descent, then those problems, while still there, seem much less insuperable. I certainly agree that random, unintelligent processes could not account for them, but an intelligent agent may have ways around apparent difficulties. So in judging the likelihood of common descent, I discount problems that could be classified as "how did that get here?" Instead, I give much more weight to the "mistakes" or "useless features" arguments. If some peculiar feature is shared between two species which, as far as we can tell, has no particular function, and which in other contexts we would likely call a genetic accident, then I count that as rather strong evidence for common descent. So, if one looks at the data in the way that I do, then one can say simultaneously that: 1) CD is very well supported; 2) grand Darwinian claims are falsified; 3) ID is confirmed; 4) design extends very deeply into biology."

    [Note, I wasn't so impressed with his 'mistakes' or 'useless features' argument - what's seems useless today may seem very useful tomorrow]


    Maybe at this point I could suggest that you email Professor Behe (and/or Professor Denton) with your arguments for why you think it is not reasonable to hold by common descent (even if one rejects random processes) and see what he answers you. My hunch is that you will get a thoughtful and serious response. I for one would be interested to see the exchange.

    Be well,

    Moshe

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  46. Rabbi, you are probably aware of this by now, but if not - the neutrinos did not travel faster than the speed of light. Many different laboratories have since independently replicated the experiment and found that the neutrinos did not travel faster than the speed of light.

    Since then, Opera researchers have come forward and admitted that there were two issues that might have botched their initial experiment - one of them being a loose fiber optic cable that was used to measure the speed which would have resulted in a shorter measurement of time of flight of the neutrinos (and thus a faster than actual speed).

    Sergio Bertolucci, who directed one of the independent experiments which eventually refuted the opera experiment said:

    “Although this result isn’t as exciting as some would have liked,” said Bertolucci, “it is what we all expected deep down. The story captured the public imagination, and has given people the opportunity to see the scientific method in action – an unexpected result was put up for scrutiny, thoroughly investigated and resolved in part thanks to collaboration between normally competing experiments. That’s how science moves forward.”

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