Monday, October 15, 2012

Chassidic Rebbe Discovers Maaseh Bereishis


It has been a while since I've posted to these pages. I can’t speak for my colleagues but I, for one, have been exceedingly busy. Readers have complained about the lack of posts and they are, of course, correct. In order to maintain an active blog, posts must appear on a regular basis and for this I am sorry. I hope to be able to devote more time to this venue in the future. For now, please accept the following insights.

In a recent post entitled ChassidicRebbe Discovers Evolution (Almost), Rabbi Slifkin relates an incident regarding an encounter he had with an unnamed Chassidic Rebbe. The Rebbe had read somewhere that a lion was captured in the Judean Desert and Rabbi Slifkin informed him that all of the lions in this locality were killed out long ago and today exist only in small numbers in certain regions of Africa and India. The Rebbe was fascinated with this response.

“Are lions not present all over the world” asked the Rebbe?
“No” responded Rabbi Slifkin, “species are generally restricted to specific localities”.    
“But why would Hashem choose to limit lions to specific locations? Why not make them a global phenomenon?”

Rabbi Slifkin then changed the topic. A little further on Rabbi Slifkin informed the Rebbe that lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, and cougars all fall under the category of “cats”. According to Rabbi Slifkin, this fascinated the Rebbe.

“What did it mean that the lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar were all in the cat family” asked the Rebbe? “Were they cats? Surely a lion would eat a cat!”

Rabbi Slifkin then explained to the Rebbe that they all have certain anatomical similarities which make them into one family. Amazingly enough, the Rebbe found Rabbi Slifkin’s explanation “intriguing”.

Frankly, I’m not sure what to make of this story. At first I assumed Rabbi Slifkin was merely trying to poke fun at Chassidic Rebbes but if so he picked the wrong Rebbe. This fellow, whoever he is, is not very knowledgeable, neither in science nor in Torah. Most high school boys with even a rudimentary exposure to animal biology understand that animals are grouped together according to their body structures.

As far as Torah, last week’s parsha discusses the creation of animals “according to their kinds”. This idea is repeated several times in the span of only a few pesukim and is used to describe the various kinds of birds, fish, large animals, and small creeping animals. It is clear from the Torah that animals are grouped into various “kinds”. Of course, the Torah does not describe its system of grouping in detail but anatomical similarity is clearly implicated. Furthermore, the Talmud is full of in-depth discussions in Zoology and it is clear that similarity is an important component in determining the connections between various animals. In fact, our very own lion is clearly connected to other large cats in the Talmud. Case in point: A tiger is referred to as the “lion” of bey ila’i (Chullin 59b).

Up until this point, our conversation has precious little to contribute to the understanding and resolution of the evolution-Torah loggerhead. But here’s where it gets serious. In contrast to the uninformed assumptions of the Chassidic Rebbe, Rabbi Slifkin does the favor of providing us with the “enlightened” scientific explanation as to why lions are limited to specific localities. He writes as follows: 
Why are certain animals very similar to each other and very different from other animals? Why do lions and tigers and leopards and jaguars all resemble each other in various ways… Why do certain animals live in certain parts of the world?... The answers to all these questions emerges from a very simple insight: All animals descended from common ancestors. Lions and tigers and leopards and jaguars are all descended from an ancestral cat… And because animals emerged from common ancestors, they are often restricted to the locations of those ancestors. 
Well, that’s very nice. Makes sense to someone with little to no knowledge of lions. But here’s the problem. Fossils of lions have been found all over the world! They cover the entire African continent, Asia, much of Europe and the Americas. Other than human beings, lions are the most ubiquitous mammal (paleontologically speaking) on the planet. They existed everywhere. Rabbi Slifkin would like us to believe that his evolutionary explanation of the limited location of lions is “rational” but unfortunately our Chassidic Rebbe’s query seems more compelling. Why indeed did Hashem not create lions everywhere? The answer is, he did! As to why they are so limited in number and location today, even Zoologists don’t know the answer to that question. The current belief is that in-fighting amongst the males and confrontation with humans are the two primary factors which contribute to the lion’s rapid extinction. Evolution has nothing to do with it.

So, as far as lions are concerned, I think the score is: Ma’aseh Bereishis: 1 Evolution: 0. So much for lions. Here’s Rabbi Slifkin’s final comment. 
I suspect that if common ancestry could be evaluated by itself, without any connection to the mechanisms of evolution, the evolution of man, and without any connection to godless atheists, a lot more people would be able to accept it. They would be receptive to Rav Hirsch's description of it being part of God's "creative wisdom." 
I am a veteran of the evolution-Torah debate but I must confess that when I read this paragraph I was stunned into “silence”. I simply couldn't believe what I was reading. But on further reflection I gained new insight into Rabbi Slifkin’s point of view which I would like to share that with my dear readers. But first, a point by point response. 
I suspect that if common ancestry could be evaluated by itself, without any connection to the mechanisms of evolution… 
The problem is, it can’t. For the sake of argument, let’s refer to the two available options as 1) Evolutionary Common Ancestry (ECA) and 2) Intelligent Design (ID). ECA asserts that entirely unrelated species evolved from each other via natural processes. For instance, ECA claims that avian creatures (birds) evolved naturally from terrestrial animals (dinosaurs) and aquatic creatures (whales) evolved naturally from the land-based ancestor of the hippopotamus. The very first thing such a fantastic claim demands from the rational mind is the provision of a plausible mechanism which can reasonably account for such natural transformations. Absent such a mechanism, the entire evolutionary construct collapses and the only rational alternative which remains is ID. Darwin knew this and therefore devoted his entire academic career to the development of an evolutionary mechanism for ECA. 
I suspect that if common ancestry could be evaluated by itself, without any connection to… the evolution of man, 
The problem is, it can’t. ECA asserts that contemporary man evolved from a chimp-like ancestor 7 million years go. Now, chimps have a similar body structure (gross anatomy) to man. They are not as homologically dissimilar as, say, hipos and whales. So perhaps such a claim could temporarily be accepted in conjunction with the contemporary neo-Darwinian mechanism (Natural Selection acting upon Random Mutation), at least to those uninitiated in the science of genetics. But it would surely demand some kind of paleontological evidence linking the chimp to humans. After all, 7 million years is a long time. Unfortunately, the only missing links have turned out to be hoaxes (Java Man, Peking Man, Piltdown Man etc.). So not only does the lack of evidence implicate ID, it actually disproves ECA. 
I suspect that if common ancestry could be evaluated by itself… without any connection to godless atheists… 
The problem is, it can’t. Or at least, it shouldn't. If evolution is evaluated purely as a science like, say, Newtonian physics, this would lead to serious errors of conflation in science itself. But if one understands that the theory of evolution is really an attempt to provide a materialistic explanation for the existence of phenomena that actually look like they've been purposefully and intelligently designed, when one understands that the atheistic elite of the scientific establishment promote this theory at any cost, despite its illogical constructs and despite its lack of evidence, only then can one begin to see that evolution is not really a science but rather a worldview. In order to gain credibility, Evolution uses certain elements of science along with fancy scientific jargon in order to piggyback on the incredible advances of operational science but in reality it is nothing more than a strident and sustained attack by the Satan against the open testimony of a Creator which surrounds us on all sides.

Once one understands all this, it becomes a lot easier to resolve, scientifically, the contemporary “Torah-Science” conflict. One begins to understand that in reality there is no conflict between Science and Torah per se. The conflict is between scientists and Torah, not Science and Torah. The conflict is between materialism and Torah, between atheism and Torah, not Science and Torah.

I have been debating with Rabbi Slifkin for eight years now. I have attempted to maintain equanimity and fairness in our dialogues and have tried to judge him favorably whenever possible. I have chosen to assume that he is capable of weighing the two sides of the Evolution/Torah conflict objectively and is simply erring in his assessment of the available data. But I now realize that it is impossible for me to assume such a thing.

The reality is, Rabbi Slifkin is entirely taken by the evolutionist paradigm (ECA) and is therefore incapable, in my opinion, of an objective assessment of the scientific data. Of course, Rabbi Slifkin would say the same about me. He would say that I am entirely taken by the massoretic view of ma’aseh bereishis and am incapable of assessing the data objectively. But here’s the difference. In a million years you would never catch me trying to convince anyone of my scientific view by asking them to ignore the relevant scientific information.

Rabbi Slifkin wants to make it easier for us to accept the scientific establishment’s paradigm of ECA so he declares that if we could just put aside the mechanism issue, the evidence issue, and the philosophy of science issue, it would be so much easier to accept evolution. As I mentioned before, I was thunderstruck by his statement. How could a purported expert on Torah and Science ask his audience to accept his resolutions by ignoring the relevant scientific material? But the answer is simple. Rabbi Slifkin is utterly convinced of the physical truth of ECA. He is incapable of entertaining the alternative. Accordingly, he is capable of saying anything, even irrational things, in order to help his audience to understand the “truth”. 

Normally I do not comment on Rabbi Slifkin’s motives but the above is extremely important. There are many individuals who are taken by the apologetic arguments of Rabbi Slifkin and others. Unfortunately, instead of resolving anything, his approaches lead to further conflict, which in turn generates further resolutions, and which ultimately result in a wide scale rejection of our mesora. There are many people sitting on the fence. Some fall off to the left, some to the right. For those still remaining on the fence, my message is this. It is crucial that you weigh all the facts. Never ignore science. Embrace it and see where it leads you. If after an exhaustive and detailed assessment of the available data you choose the left, so be it. But don’t short-change yourself by ignoring the scientific facts. You’re not doing yourself any favors.

62 comments:

  1. Hi,
    Just stumbled across your blog. Mind if I ask you a question or two?

    What evidence would convince you that evolution did indeed occur? How many fossils in between the last human-chimp ancestor and modern humans will you need to see, before you accept evolution?

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  2. Dear Lastyear,

    Shalom Aleichem. Welcome to our blog and thank you for writing.

    Just stumbled across your blog. Mind if I ask you a question or two?

    I live for questions. Ask away…

    What evidence would convince you that evolution did indeed occur? How many fossils in between the last human-chimp ancestor and modern humans will you need to see, before you accept evolution?

    I haven’t the slightest clue. Evolution is not my theory. Those who promote the theory need to come up with a proper statistical model for random mutation before your question can even be hoped to be answered. Unfortunately evolutionists have not provided a detailed testable Darwinian pathway for the evolution of even one single species, let alone millions. All I know is that expert paleontologists are very “disappointed” with the fossil record. An in-depth study of the geologic record (from an evolutionary standpoint) demonstrates stasis of species and then the sudden appearance of new species. This is not my assertion. I am simply relaying the facts as testified by expert paleontologists.

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  3. Hi, I hope you are well, have you read Rabbi Jonathan Sacks book "the great partnership"
    I would be interested in your opinion of it.

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  4. Scientists are virtually unanimous that the theory of evolution is the unifying concept in biology. There are many thriving fields--filled with very smart and hard working people-- dedicated to developing and testing statistical evolutionary models (see genetics, population, speciation).

    Let me ask you this: What would a "a detailed testable Darwinian pathway for the evolution of even one single species" look like? How would you know if you were shown one?

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  5. "An in-depth study of the geologic record (from an evolutionary standpoint) demonstrates stasis of species and then the sudden appearance of new species."

    What do you mean by "sudden"? If you are referring to the Cambrian explosion, that happened over 10s of MILLIONS of years.

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  6. Lastyear

    Scientists are virtually unanimous that the theory of evolution is the unifying concept in biology. There are many thriving fields--filled with very smart and hard working people-- dedicated to developing and testing statistical evolutionary models (see genetics, population, speciation).

    Thank you for emphasizing my point. Despite the “many thriving fields” filled with “very smart people” all dedicated to the development and testing of statistical evolutionary models, they still haven’t come up with a single detailed testable Darwinian pathway for even one species. This is quite telling, wouldn’t you say?

    Let me ask you this: What would a "a detailed testable Darwinian pathway for the evolution of even one single species" look like?

    That’s simple enough to answer. Let’s take the hipo to whale example. Evolutionists claim that cetacean mammals all descended from a land-based ungulate (they disagree as to which one but most claim that it was probably the ancestor of the current hippo). As I’m sure you understand, there are hundreds, nay thousands of anatomical/physiological differences between marine mammals and terrestrial ones. Let’s take an obvious example, the respiratory system. All mammals breathe air but marine mammals can “hold their breath” a lot longer and can breathe while in water a lot easier than terrestrial mammals. This is due to large physiological and anatomical differences in their respiratory system. Let’s take one example of each. Myoglobin is an oxygen-binding protein found in the muscle tissue of both terrestrial and marine mammals. But marine mammals possess this protein in far greater concentrations than terrestrial ones. Terrestrial mammals possess nostrils in the middle of their heads whereas whales possess blowholes at the top of their heads to facilitate breathing while in the water.

    Now how did this happen? How did the whale acquire larger concentrations of myoglobin in its muscle tissue and how did its nostrils shift to the top of its head? The answer is, about 50 million years or so it began “evolving” via natural selection acting upon random variations in the genetic code of its terrestrial ancestors. After 10 to 15 million years, the transformation from terrestrial to semi-aquatic to fully aquatic was completed and voila, a perfectly functioning aquatic mammal, nostrils and all. Pretty nifty, huh?

    Now as I’m sure you know, random mutation is not a nice guy. Our experience is that whenever he shows up, problems start happening (think: cancer). He doesn’t contribute to the functionality of an organism, he detracts from it. But every dog has his day and even random mutation can get lucky. So, here are some of the things we need to know in order to create a proper statistical model for the evolution of myoglobin/blowholes in whales.

    1) How many evolutionary stages does it take for, say, myoglobin to appear in the appropriate concentrations.?

    2) How many non-beneficial mutations have to occur before a beneficial one occurs for each of those stages?

    3) What is the average rate of mutation for myoglobin?

    4) Does the rate change once it begins metamorphosing?

    5) What is the fallout to the respiratory organs from the physiological changes occurring in the concentration of myoglobin and do they too need to evolve simultaneously in order to accommodate for the change in protein concentration?

    6) If they too need to evolve, ask question 1 through 4 for each one of these organs and recalculate your figures to account for the decreased chance of a beneficial mutation and the increased rate of evolution for myoglobin in land to marine animal evolution.

    I can go on and on but I think you get my drift. Evolutionists do not begin to have the slightest answer to any of these questions.

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  7. Lastyear

    What do you mean by "sudden"?

    “…it remains true, as every paleontologist knows, that most new species, genera, and families, and that nearly all categories above the level of families, appear in the record suddenly and are not led up to by known, gradual, completely continuous transitional sequences” (George Gaylord Simpson, The Major Features of Evolution, Columbia University Press, 1969 p. 360

    If you are referring to the Cambrian explosion, that happened over 10s of MILLIONS of years.

    No, it didn’t. It happened over 5 million years. You are referring to the Cambrian Age which, as you say, lasted much longer (65myr). The “explosion” took place over a very short period of time, geologically speaking.

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  8. So you accept that the world is older than 6,00 years?

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    1. And didn't richard Lenski breed e-coli for 50,000 generations and found no chnages to their genotype? GIven a 20 year generation that would give us a projection of 1million years with no evolutionary changes. Even if you say after 50,001 generations there would have been a change that only gives you 5 changes over 5mllion years - not much of an explosion - or maybe the whole evolution thing is just shtus....

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    2. B"H
      Dear Marcus
      There are now 56,331
      http://myxo.css.msu.edu/index.html

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    3. It says on the website that there was a change in 'relative' fitness - does that mean there was evolution occuring?

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    4. Adaptation does not mean evolution.

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    5. Could you explain the difference in laymans terms?

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    6. Adaptation is the activation of biological mechanism (preexisting and available in every living entity) as a result of changes that altered the homeostatic equilibrium.

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    7. Can you give an example of what is considered an non-evolutionary adaptation?
      Also can you tell me a bit more about this biological mechanism?

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    8. An example is what happened in Lenski´s experiment (the activation of a preexisting biological mechanism), please ayein sham.

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    9. OK, thanks. I looked there. I don't really know what I'm looking for - but I found an article by the team in nature http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v461/n7268/full/nature08480.html which indicates there was a change at the genome level - as I understand it this means that the 'average' genetic code of the creatures changed from generation to generation. Isn't that evolution?

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    10. B"H
      Dear Marcus
      Since in the Nature paper you are quoting they sequenced genomes sampled through 40,000 generations from a laboratory population of Escherichia coli, please point to one beneficial genomic mutation (evolution) mentioned there.

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    11. They didn't describe any specific beneficial mutation - they did say they had evidence that mutations were beneficial - but I couldn't locate that bit. Do you believe they are being deceptive in saying the mutations are beneficial?

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    12. Sorry, I do not know the answer to your last question, but if you find the evidence that mutations were beneficial, please let me know.
      Kol tuv

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    13. Dr. Betech,
      What do you mean by a pre-existing biological mechanism?

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    14. Marcus,
      About beneficial mutations:

      In evolutionary theory, a beneficial mutation is one which raises the reproductive capabilities of the containing organism (thereby preserving the new gene in future generations). Nothing more, nothing less.

      The vast majority of mutations are either neutral (have no effect on the ability of the offspring to reproduce) or deleterious.

      However it's trivial to see that there can be beneficial mutations (given the definition above):
      1 - Genes contain the blueprints for our bodies.
      2 - Genes sometimes mutate (DNA is not perfect at copying itself).
      3 - Genetic mutations can (and do) effect our bodies
      4 - Our bodies obviously have an effect on our ability to reproduce

      But you don't have to hypothesize about beneficial mutations. Take a look at these
      recent beneficial mutations in humans

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    15. B"H
      Dear Lastyear, sorry for the delay in answering your question.
      You wrote:
      What do you mean by a pre-existing biological mechanism?

      IB:
      (I presume you have read Lenski’s article).
      For example: that the wild-type E coli can use citrate when the oxygen levels are low.

      Delete
  9. I'll try to give a more detailed rebuttal to your previous comment soon.

    p.s. those captchas are HARD!

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  10. Sorry, that should read 6,000 years.

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  11. "I can go on and on but I think you get my drift. Evolutionists do not begin to have the slightest answer to any of these questions. "

    Really? Are you sure?

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  12. Well do you have an answer... or just here for fun?

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    Replies
    1. Well if someone is serious about if and how these questions were answered, Google is a good resource...

      1) How many evolutionary stages does it take for, say, myoglobin to appear in the appropriate concentrations.?
      evolution of myoglobin

      2) How many non-beneficial mutations have to occur before a beneficial one occurs for each of those stages?

      beneficial mutation rate

      3) What is the average rate of mutation for myoglobin?

      myoglobin mutation rate

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    2. 4) Does the rate change once it begins metamorphosing?

      Not sure what this means. But I believe that the rate of genetic mutation is random with respect to it's effect on the organism (that is what random mutation means). Although I think some recent studies are suggesting that the rate of genetic change itself could be subject to natural selection. i.e that some species have evolved the ability to generate genetic diversity at a higher rate. And indeed sexual reproduction (which evolved) is itself a source of tremendous genetic diversity without mutation.

      5) What is the fallout to the respiratory organs from the physiological changes occurring in the concentration of myoglobin and do they too need to evolve simultaneously in order to accommodate for the change in protein concentrationb?

      Are you referring to the problem of interlocking, or irreducible complexity: Biochemistry professor Michael Behe, the originator of the term irreducible complexity, defines an irreducibly complex system as one "composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning". Wikipedia entry on the concept

      6) If they too need to evolve, ask question 1 through 4 for each one of these organs and recalculate your figures to account for the decreased chance of a beneficial mutation and the increased rate of evolution for myoglobin in land to marine animal evolution.

      You are assuming here that evolution is goal oriented. That it has a certain target in mind. But that's a falacy. Think of it this way: You could take any event and extrapolate backwards, marveling at all the stuff that had to happen just right to get to that event. The odds of you being born (for instance) are astronomically low when you look at it that way. It's the same with evolution. If you look back at any major transition between species, and you calculate all the things that had to happen just right to get from point A to point B, you conclude it's all too improbable to have happened. But it didn't have to happen that way, it just did.
      Take a read through this article Improbable_things_happen

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. Lastyear

    So you accept that the world is older than 6,00 years?

    Would that make you more comfortable with my position? If so, why? I clearly reject evolution. A designer with plan and purpose is the only other alternative. Once you assume the latter, huge time periods are no longer necessary.

    But to answer your question, no, I do not accept that the world is older than 6k years. You made an assertion based on evolutionary science so I responded in kind.

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    Replies
    1. Well, you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you don't believe that the world is older than 6,000 years, then don't bring the Cambrian Explosion into the discussion as a point in your favor, since it happened many millions of years ago, and clearly you don't accept that.

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    2. Your comment reminds me of the famous story of the invisible pink unicorn.

      I don't believe in your unicorn.
      Why not?
      Well, if it's invisible, how can it be pink?
      Do you then admit its invisibility?
      Of course not!
      Well then don't invoke it as a reason to reject pink unicorn theorem!

      Delete
  14. Lastyear

    I'll try to give a more detailed rebuttal to your previous comment soon.

    I’d love to hear what you have to say but I would ask you to first peruse my posts on this blog, especially the comments section. Several individuals have engaged me in debate about evolution and it’s all recorded here. One of the threads has almost 300 comments! Check it out.

    p.s. those captchas are HARD!

    Sorry but your reference flew right over my head. What’s a captcha?

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  15. I read the post with 300 comments. That is what interested me in your blog. It looks like your opponent had some points in favor of evolution that you did not respond to (unless you have in the last two days).

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  16. Just as a general comment on the thread - seeing as Rav Hirsch was invoked - I wanted to point out that in his much (mis) quoted essay on the educational value of Judaism he actually lists three requirements that are needed before one could possibly believe in evolution.

    1. A specific hypothesis - RSRH called evolution a vague hypothesis
    2. evidence (that the hypothesis was correct)
    3. The consensus of the scientific world (that 2 matched 1)

    However as we have seen on these very comments the evolutionists are unable to muster anything other than the most vague of theories and even become evaisive when challenged to be more specific. When the best someone can do to describe a theory of evolution, is paste a link to a google search results page - then that is a sorry indicator that they just don't know the answer.

    Of course without a hypothesis that can be tested we don't even know what evidence to look for or what it would look like if we found it. And if without even hypothesis or evidence the consensus of 'science' is in favour of evolution - then this says something deeply disturbing about 'science' and those who believe in her.

    Sometimes I look up at the painting of Rav Hirsch on my wall and think, 'What would Rav Hirsch do if he were here right now?' and the answer is probably - be writing against evolution, atheism and modern efforts to reform (or deform) Judaism.

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  17. Marcus,
    Have you read through any of the results in those Google searches? I am not a biologist, so, I can't answer questions about the evolution of myoglobin. But my point in posting the Google results was that clearly they CAN be answered.

    Simchas questions are completely legitimate. They show an understanding of the problems that evolution must solve. Smart, curious, HONEST, hard working scientists have have been asking those kinds of questions for over 150 years. And guess what? By doing the hard work of researching and experimenting they've found many of those answers. That's why evolution has gone from a "Vague hypotheses" in Rav Hirsch's words, to a well supported theory, backed by mountains of evidence.
















































































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    Replies
    1. Lastyear said

      Have you read through any of the results in those Google searches?

      Marcus

      Yes - but I'm not an expert so I could have missed it - but seeing as you admit you aren't a biologist and don't know the answer then how can you be sure your links do answer the question?

      Is it just blind faith in your smart, harding working and HONEST scientists?

      In anycase I'm very curious as to how Rabbi Coffer knows a lot more about this than either of us, responds to your google pasting.

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  18. Marcus,
    About beneficial mutations:

    In evolutionary theory, a beneficial mutation is one which raises the reproductive capabilities of the containing organism (thereby preserving the new gene in future generations). Nothing more, nothing less.

    The vast majority of mutations are either neutral (have no effect on the ability of the offspring to reproduce) or deleterious.

    However it's trivial to see that there can be beneficial mutations (given the definition above):
    1 - Genes contain the blueprints for our bodies.
    2 - Genes sometimes mutate (DNA is not perfect at copying itself).
    3 - Genetic mutations can (and do) effect our bodies
    4 - Our bodies obviously have an effect on our ability to reproduce

    But you don't have to hypothesize about beneficial mutations. Take a look at this
    list of recent beneficial mutations in humans

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  19. OK, thanks for your link to a magazine article. If you want to be taken seriously by intelligent, thinking people who don't believe in evolution - you'll need to do better then pasting google searches, better then magazine articles. It seems to me that your entire response is; 'the evidence is out there, somewhere... on google... keep searching I'm sure it must be there... onward!'

    Instead of that approach: If you know, please show. How about journal articles showing answers to the above 6 questions.

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    Replies
    1. I understand your frustration, Marcus. You feel like I'm sending you on a goose chase. However you have to realize something. The basic premise of evolution is simple. But as with any large body of knowledge, the details can be enormously complex. Some of Simcha's questions can't be answered simply and easily. If you're truly interested in things like what is the current best hypothesis for the evolution of whales from land dwelling mammals, and why, you'll have to do a decent amount of reading. I replied to questions 4-6 btw. Maybe we can discuss those.

      But I'll tell you that you have to be prepared to have an open mind. You have to be willing to at least be open to the possibility that scientists aren't all fools, or trying to deceive you into apikorsus. If you already know that evolution is shtus, then nothing will likely change your mind.

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    2. Look - it's like this: We know the Torah is emes and we accept the mesorah which says the world was created by a meta-natural act, 6000 years ago. If you want to come along and proselatize for evolution the burden of proof, including finding and actually understanding the relevent sources, is on you.

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  20. Lastyear

    Wow! I’m gone for a couple days and you and Marcus break out into fisticuffs! Hope everyone is having a good time… :-)

    Well, you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you don't believe that the world is older than 6,000 years, then don't bring the Cambrian Explosion into the discussion as a point in your favor, since it happened many millions of years ago, and clearly you don't accept that.

    Let’s get something straight. I didn’t bring up the Cambrian Explosion; you did. All I did was correct your evolutionary dating schema. But since we’re on the topic, the CE is indeed one of the strongest disproofs for the theory of evolution while simultaneously providing positive evidence for the Biblical account of Creation. The reason you are confused is because you are taking certain assumptions of evolutionary geology for granted. The reality is CE remains a major impasse for evolution. If you need clarification let me know. I’ve written a lot about it. I just need to find it…

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  21. Lastyear

    I read the post with 300 comments. That is what interested me in your blog. It looks like your opponent had some points in favor of evolution that you did not respond to (unless you have in the last two days).

    I don’t recall any points that I ignored but it’s irrelevant. This is a new thread. If you have any questions or comments regarding this thread, please feel free to post them.

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  22. Marcus Freudental

    In anycase I'm very curious as to how Rabbi Coffer knows a lot more about this than either of us, responds to your google pasting.

    Don’t hold your breath Marcus. First of all, Lastyear wasn’t responding to me, he was responding to your challenge i.e. “do you have an answer to the questions”. As far as I’m concerned, he asked me to provide a definition of “detailed testable Darwinian pathway” and I did. Second of all, I don’t respond to “links”. I respond to informed arguments supported by data in the published scientific literature from recognized professional scientists.

    Just so you know, Google search is a very bad way to obtain proper information on scientific issues unless you are willing to pay money. Sure, Google will turn up an endless number of low-level media sources on any given topic. But the vast majority of professional peer-reviewed journal sites do not release their articles online unless you are a member or unless you pay a onetime fee for the particular article you happened to be interested in. What they release is a small Abstract which provides a short (very short) synopsis of the material for professional researchers so they can determine if the article is something they would like to use in their research. All the rest of the stuff is unreliable. Not necessarily wrong, just unreliable. But if it makes you feel any better, none of the links delineated by Lastyear provide the slightest response to any of the issues at hand. However, until Lastyear addresses me directly, I’m staying out of the fray. Sorry…

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    1. No need to apologise - in the end your reply was the same as mine - don't paste links, answer the question properly.

      Delete
  23. Lastyear

    I'll try to give a more detailed rebuttal to your previous comment soon.

    You addressed a 6 point response to Marcus. Was this what you were referring to? If so, I will gladly respond. But I need you to pick one thing at a time. Also, please don’t respond by copying and pasting links. First make a clear argument in defense of your position so I can know that you understand the material being discussed. Also, try and include a verifiable quote from a recognized authority in the field. Then you can feel free to attach a link to a scientific site which supports your argument. But please, no “popular” evolutionist sites. The data there is meaningless. You need to appeal to the published scientific literature for accurate information on evolutionary data.

    Please understand; I have had many discussions/debates on science and Torah. Much to my chagrin, the vast majority are a total waste of time. I no longer have any patience for low-level discussions on the merits and demerits of the theory. If you are willing to rise to the occasion by doing the research and familiarizing yourself with the relevant data, then by all means, I am here for you. If not, let’s leave it alone please.

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  24. Lastyear

    Dr. Betech,
    What do you mean by a pre-existing biological mechanism?


    I looked through the comments and did not notice Rav Isaac’s response to you so I will respond on his behalf. What he means is a pre-existing genetic mechanism. He means to distinguish between minor adaptations within a species which are the result of preexisting genetic information in the gene-pool of the species, versus the neo-Darwinian mechanism of Random Mutation which is supposed to create new information not found in the original gene-pool. The former looks like an evolutionary process and is often mistaken (or misrepresented) for one but in reality does not satisfy the necessities of the theory which requires new and beneficial genetic coding to account for the variations necessary for the process of evolutionary speciation.

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  25. Dear Rav Isaac shlita,

    Shalom Aleichem! Thank you for joining the discussion and providing us with your professional input. You are surely too busy to be involved in a detailed discussion so I chose to pick up on your point and expand on it. If I have made any errors, please let me know.

    Shalom u’vracha,

    Simcha

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    1. B"H
      Dear Rav Simcha shlit"a
      As always I enjoy very much your answers.
      Shabua tov

      Delete

  26. Hi Simcha,
    Regarding your comment:
    "Also, please don’t respond by copying and pasting links. First make a clear argument in defense of your position so I can know that you understand the material being discussed."

    I totally get your point. Unfortunately I don't have the relevant expertise on the evolution of myoglobin, nor do I have the time to obtain that expertise. So if that's a blocker to debate, we'll just have to call it quits. However, I did respond to questions 4-6 in my own words (with additional links for reference). Do you want to discuss those?





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  27. Regarding your explanation of the pre-existing genetic information, you misunderstand evolutionary theory on some basic levels.

    "He means to distinguish between minor adaptations within a species which are the result of preexisting genetic information in the gene-pool of the species, versus the neo-Darwinian mechanism of Random Mutation which is supposed to create new information not found in the original gene-pool."

    Firstly, Evolutionary theory doesn’t have a concept of “minor adaptations within a species” (commonly referred to by Creationists as micro-evolution). Genetic change and speciation are completely separate mechanisms. You can have one species change drastically over time, and you can have one species diverge into two with only minor genetic differences.
    Secondly, The neo-Darwinian mechanism doesn’t only include random mutation. Sexual recombination, genetic drift, sexual selection, these are all mechanisms that drive change at the genetic level.
    Thirdly, unless you rigorously define “information”, there is no way to evaluate your statement “Random Mutation..is supposed to create new information not found in the original gene-pool.” Take for instance, gene duplication (“defined as any duplication of a region of DNA that contains a gene. It is a major mechanism through which new genetic material is generated during molecular evolution”). Under what definition of “Information” does gene duplication not count? Please explain why? Please read the Wikipedia article on Gene Duplication, from which I quoted here.

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  28. Also,
    I got a clear answer from Marcus that he already knows evolution is false because it contradicts (his interpretation of) the Torah. Thanks for your honesty, Marcus. So there's no point in further discussion on the evidence.

    Earlier I asked you what possible evidence you'd accept for evolution, but you didn't give me any. I'll rephrase the question: Is there any possible, evidence at all that would change your mind (that the world and its living inhabitants weren't created exactly the way it is described in the Torah)?

    It's a simple yes or no question. If yes, we can continue to debate on the evidence. If no, the discussion is over, because there's no point in discussing evidence.

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  29. Rabbi, if you are seeking the answer for the myoglobin concentration, I do not have the time to search the literature for the precise changes, but I can offer you some insight based on my knowledge of genetics.

    The concentration of myoglobin will have little to do with the actual myoglobin gene and much, much more to do with the promoter of the myoglobin gene. The promoter of the gene is a much smaller segment of DNA than the actual gene it is regulating, and is located upstream from the gene.

    Changes in a promoter sequence increase the rate of transcription in many ways, but here are some examples:

    1) Any mutation Increasing the affinity to transcription transcription factors (this will result in more mRNA being transcribed, since transcription factors that initiate the gene transcription will bind to the promoter more often)

    2) Any mutation Decreasing the affinity of transcription inhibitors. (this will result in more mRNA being transcribed)

    It should be noted that a 1000 fold increase or decrease in protein concentration does not need to come from 1000 changes in the promoter. You can have alterations that increase/decrease the resultant concentration by a little, and you can have alterations that increase/decrease the resultant concentrations by a lot. Affinity is a very, very complex thing to study and predict on this level, primarily because there are so many proteins involved in transcription regulation. It takes a lot of computer work just to map out the energy states of just 1 protein by itself!

    Also, different conditions in different tissue types can influence the affinities as well. A change in the way the promoter responds to conditions in a certain tissue can also cause changes.

    So anyway this is a lot of stuff but the main point im trying to get across is that if you're looking for the answer, don't look at the myoglobin gene. Compare the differences in the *promoter* for the myoglobin gene instead.

    Best wishes,

    Avi

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  30. Avi Bitterman

    Dear Avi,

    Shalom Aleichem! How’s my favorite med-school student faring? I’m sure you’re knocking them dead. As usual, it is great to hear from you. BTY, I haven’t forgotten my promise to you. I still intend on writing a post addressing your issue re kefira. Unfortunately I haven’t had the time. Hopefully soon.

    I intended on dropping the conversation on this post but since you took the time to write, I’ll respond in short.

    Rabbi, if you are seeking the answer for the myoglobin concentration, I do not have the time to search the literature for the precise changes, but I can offer you some insight based on my knowledge of genetics.

    I’m not looking for the answer. I already have it. God created hippos and whales with the appropriate concentration of myglobin for their respective physiologies. Of course, I’m being a wise guy as you are referring to the evolutionary answer for variations in myoglobin concentrations from terrestrial to aquatic mammals but as you know, I do not believe that evolutionary mechanisms can adequately account for such variations. As far as searching for it, I’m glad you don’t have the time. Your time is far better spent learning how to heal people. But in case you get a hankering, let me save you the time. You can look high and low in the evolutionary literature and you will not find a detailed testable Darwinian pathway for genetic variations of myoglobin concentrations in the hippo to whale evolution paradigm.

    The concentration of myoglobin will have little to do with the actual myoglobin gene and much, much more to do with the promoter of the myoglobin gene.

    Acknowledged. But let me add to this that when it comes to macro-evolutionary changes, such as the appearance of new limbs, tinkering with the sequences in the promoter region of DNA is inadequate. Random Mutation (evolution) would necessitate actual variations in genetic coding sequences in order to account for the brand new information. As it happens, I chose myoglobin as an example so yes, you are correct. Many evolutionary biologists feel that in such a case mutations in promoters are more crucial to evolution than mutations in coding sequences. But all this is irrelevant to my main point as I will explain in my next comment.

    It should be noted that a 1000 fold increase or decrease in protein concentration does not need to come from 1000 changes in the promoter. You can have alterations that increase/decrease the resultant concentration by a little, and you can have alterations that increase/decrease the resultant concentrations by a lot. Affinity is a very, very complex thing to study and predict on this level, primarily because there are so many proteins involved in transcription regulation. It takes a lot of computer work just to map out the energy states of just 1 protein by itself!

    Well said! Affinity is a very complex thing to study and to predict especially when we lack all the variables for the equation such as varying conditions in the different tissues. This only amplifies my point. After 150 years, and with all the advances in genetic and computer technology, evolutionists still do not possess a detailed testable Darwinian pathway for even the smallest evolutionary variation such as myoglobin concentrations, kal va’chomer a comprehensive pathway detailing the full gamut of change from one species to another.

    Once again, thanks for writing. I wish you hatzlacha in your studies.

    Simcha Coffer

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  31. Lastyear,

    Hi Lastyear,

    Sorry for the delayed response. I’ve been busy and in any case I resolved to drop the conversation on this post. But I just responded to Avi (I always respond to Avi! He’s my dream opponent) so I guess the conversation has been reopened.

    I totally get your point. Unfortunately I don't have the relevant expertise on the evolution of myoglobin, nor do I have the time to obtain that expertise. So if that's a blocker to debate, we'll just have to call it quits.

    Yes, it is a blocker to debate but only as applies to myoglobin. We don’t have to call it quits. All you need to do is provide me with one single detailed testable Darwinian pathway for any of the major physiological changes that exist between terrestrial mammals and aquatic ones and the debate is back on! You don’t like myoglobin? Fine. Choose something else. Anything. Anything at all! But give me something. Don’t just leave me hanging…

    Look, you asked me to provide you with an explanation for what I meant by “detailed testable Darwinian pathway” and I did. I detailed a six part process and used myoglobin as an example. You then tried to claim that “hard working bright and honest” scientists had indeed satisfied my criteria for myoglobin but when I pushed you against the wall you retreated and claimed that you lacked the relevant expertise. All I can tell you is that such responses are simply invalid. If you want to have a meaningful discussion, you must familiarize yourself with the relevant material. Otherwise there’s no point.

    Here’s a suggestion. Study Avi Bitterman’s methodology. Read his comments. See how he formulates his initial position and see how he defends it. Note his thorough familiarity with the subject matter. Then see how he attacks his opponent’s position. Note his consistent appeal to sources in the published scientific literature for support etc. etc.

    Avi and I disagree sharply on evolution but one thing is for sure. His adherence to proper debate protocols is beyond reproach. He’s a good model to follow…

    However, I did respond to questions 4-6 in my own words (with additional links for reference). Do you want to discuss those?

    OK, I’ll do it. So, what would you like to discuss? Please pick one point at a time. Let’s start with #4. Do you have a problem with it? If so, please explain.

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  32. Hi Simcha,
    A couple of posts ago I asked you this question:
    " Is there any possible, evidence at all that would change your mind (that the world and its living inhabitants weren't created exactly the way it is described in the Torah)?"

    And in responding to Avi Bitterman, you gave me the answer loud and clear: No. ("I’m not looking for the answer. I already have it. God created hippos and whales with the appropriate concentration of myglobin for their respective physiologies.")

    So there is no point in further debate about the evidence for evolution.

    To be honest though, I knew this all along. Asking me for a "detailed testable darwinian pathway" is, like your other questions, based on ignorance of evolution, and how we gain confidence in scientific theories. Just to take a hypothetical example: Imagine seeing a rock at the bottom of a cliff, and a hole the exact shape of the rock at the top of the cliff. We don't need to know the exact path the rock took on its way down to know that gravity took it from point a to point b.

    The same is true of evolution. We already know that the combination of reproduction with heritable variation, when combined with natural selection drives some change from one generation to the next (this has been observed, and is not controversial even amongst creationists, who call it microevolution). And we observe the fossil record that shows species a at one point in time and similar species b at another point. We don't have to know every single intermediate step between point a and point b to have confidence in the origin of species b.

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  33. Lastyear

    Hi Simcha,
    A couple of posts ago I asked you this question:
    " Is there any possible, evidence at all that would change your mind (that the world and its living inhabitants weren't created exactly the way it is described in the Torah)?"

    And in responding to Avi Bitterman, you gave me the answer loud and clear: No.


    Wait a minute. What did I respond to you in the post in question? I don’t know which post you are referring to but it seems disingenuous to omit my response there in lieu of your perceived understanding of my meaning in an entirely different post. Of course, if I did not respond to you at the time, then your assertion is not disingenuous (although wrong). So which one is it? Did I respond to you at the time? And if so, what did I say?

    Notwithstanding, my standard response to such a question is:
    a) the question is irrelevant. We are discussing the actual evidence, not theoretical evidence
    b) Notwithstanding a), I would be impressed if there was a significant number of transitional fossils linking the various species to each other.

    Note: b) is an actual response to your question so please don’t get stuck on a).

    And in responding to Avi Bitterman, you gave me the answer loud and clear: No.
    ("I’m not looking for the answer. I already have it. God created hippos and whales with the appropriate concentration of myglobin for their respective physiologies.")

    So there is no point in further debate about the evidence for evolution.


    You are misquoting me! My initial response was clearly tongue-in-cheek as I indicate in the very next sentence. Furthermore, a bit later in the very same response I informed Avi that I checked out the evolutionary literature on myoglobin “and you will not find a detailed testable Darwinian pathway for genetic variations of myoglobin concentrations in the hippo to whale evolution paradigm.”

    You’re right; there is indeed no point in further debate with you about the evidence of evolution. Instead of admitting that you can’t provide a detailed testable Darwinian pathway, you stoop to misquoting me. The funny thing is, all anybody needs to do is scroll up two comments and see that you’re misquoting me and yet somehow this doesn’t deter you.

    To be honest though, I knew this all along. Asking me for a "detailed testable darwinian pathway" is, like your other questions, based on ignorance of evolution, and how we gain confidence in scientific theories. Just to take a hypothetical example: Imagine seeing a rock at the bottom of a cliff, and a hole the exact shape of the rock at the top of the cliff. We don't need to know the exact path the rock took on its way down to know that gravity took it from point a to point b.

    The same is true of evolution.


    Oh really? The ancestor of the hippo (hole at the top of the cliff) is exactly the same shape as the whale (hole at the bottom of the cliff)? Your assertion is actually comical my friend. Just so you know, there are tens of thousands of differences in “shape” (i.e. anatomical and physiological differences) between terrestrial mammals and aquatic ones!

    Continued…

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  34. Continued from previous…

    We already know that the combination of reproduction with heritable variation, when combined with natural selection drives some change from one generation to the next

    Sure. But the key is, it remains the same species. Darwin observed the very same thing amongst animal breeders but even the ones that changed slightly (stronger, faster etc.) were able to breed with any member of their species. This has nothing to do with the fantastical claims of evolutionists that one species eventually transformed into an entirely different species.

    And we observe the fossil record that shows species a at one point in time and similar species b at another point.

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re simply parroting over information you’ve received from low-level sources. It’s obvious that you’ve never studied evolution in depth, especially paleontology. But here’s a challenge for you. Please provide a sequence of fossils from Hippo to Whale (our current discussion) that you feel is reasonably long enough to demonstrate your “theory of evolutionary gravity”. Keep in mind; the evolutionary process lasted over 40-50 million years and most paleontologists would expect to see thousands of transitional fossils but I’ll go easy on you. Provide a sequence of a thousand over 40 million years and I’ll be satisfied. You win! You’ve provided evidence for evolution! You know, forget a thousand; how about five hundred? No? How about two hundred? Do I hear one hundred? A hundred transitional fossils over 50 million years! Is that too much to ask? Fine, give me fifty! Just fifty over 50 million years. That’s one fossil every million years. Surely this is a reasonable request.

    We don't have to know every single intermediate step between point a and point b to have confidence in the origin of species b.

    Yup. Very true. But we need to know something! There must be at least some substantial level of evidence for hippo to whale evolution. Surely one or two transitions over 40m yrs are insufficient. So, the ball is in your court my friend. Please provide compelling fossil evidence for hippo to whale evolution. You might want to start by actually studying the scientific literature for once. Good luck to you…

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