Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blog Comments Policy

We do want to thank all our readers for the polite way in which the discussion and comments have been undertaken. This is particularly noteworthy given the significant disagreements on fundamentals and the controversial nature of the topics treated.

Given the polite (lashon-hara free) tone of the discussion,  we have seen no reason to moderate comments. The blogger policy we have invoked is that comments are posted immediately (I hope we can continue to do this). However, comments go to the moderation queue after 14 days. We just noticed some comments in that queue and have enabled them (but this is an error prone process as someone has to remember to look at the queue). Please provide us with feedback on this policy. 

Irrefutable Proofs & the Case of the Panda's Thumb

The national project of the Jewish people has been to study the Torah (received from G-d at Sinai), to put it into practice, and to transmit it intact (to the best of our abilities) to the next generation. The Rambam (MN II.25) goes so far as to say that only an irrefutable proof (by Aristotle or Plato, for example) would be grounds for reconsidering the simple reading (peshat) of the first chapters of Genesis. The essential historicity of the first chapters of Genesis is accepted by all our b'aalei mesora.
On each day of the six day creation week, novel entities were formed outside of the system of nature currently in operation and, on the seventh day (Shabbos), the state of the world became lasting and established just as it is at present. [Rambam, MN 1:67]

“The geographical location of the mizbeach was extremely precise; it’s location is never to be altered…It is a tradition in the hands of all that the place Dovid and Shlomo built the mizbeach in Goren Arvinah is the same place that Avraham built the mizbeach to which he tied Yitzchok. It is the place which Noach built upon when he exited the ark. It is the mizbeach which Kayin and Hevel offered upon and Adam haRishon sacrificed a korban when he was created. And from there he was created. Our sages have said, ‘Adam was born from the dust located at the place of his atonement’”. (Rambam, Hilchos Beis haBechira 2:1-2)
Proofs against our mesora, needless to say, have not been provided. Following the Rambam, we are committed to rational discourse. We have a well authenticated national tradition -- so the burden of proof is on those who wish to contest our baalei mesora.

In his books R. Slifkin has taken a view contrary to our baalei mesora including the Rambam (see above). Following Darwin, R. Slifkin believes that man evolved from primitive ape-like precursors, and he thus aligns himself with Darwinians who believe in vestigial organs, embryological debris and poorly designed structures such as the Panda's thumb. Evolution's Blind Watchmaker Thesis claims that we are here by unguided processes (e.g. random mutation and natural selection) that did not have us in mind. While this type of belief is supportive of atheism, R. Slifkin believes that we can nevertheless be "religious Darwinists". “Naturalistic Darwinian evolution is fully compatible with religion” (Challenge p. 294). “The blind-watchmaker thesis need not be incompatible with God” (Challenge p. 297). Consider a section titled "Imperfect Design from a Perfect Creator" in which Rabbi Slifkin writes as follows: 
Stephen Jay Gould [Harvard University] has elaborated upon this argument in his work The Panda's Thumb [1980]. Pandas do not have an opposable thumb that is one of the five digits, as do other animals with grasping hands. Instead, they have a modification of the wrist bone, which serves to help grasp bamboo. Such a "thumb" makes sense in light of Darwinian evolution; the thumb was already pressed into use as a finger, leaving natural selection to operate with the wrist bone. But, argues Gould, this is too inefficient a limb to be the work of a wise Creator. There are other features of organisms that not only appear poorly designed, but are even potentially detrimental. ... Evolutionists correctly argue that these indicate descent from earlier species; atheist evolutionists incorrectly argue that they disprove the existence of a wise Creator. ... 
We can therefore plausibly contend that He [the Creator] would use the simplest means to obtain the complex goal of the world in which we live. It is a mark of genius to create a system that can produce a panda from a non-panda (even at the cost of having an inflexible thumb), rather than having to design one from scratch. Far from being a menace to religion, boundless Darwinian evolution assists in explaining an age-old problem of why there are so many features of living things that seem poorly designed, useless, or even harmful. [Challenge p. 303-304, Emphasis added]
The above style of reasoning (common in evolutionary biology) is very far from the standards of the hard sciences (and even further from the standard of proof demanded by the Rambam when it comes to our mesora). For example, even if it is true that the Panda's thumb is poorly designed, there are no detailed testable Darwinian pathways that can explain the origin of wrist bones, thumbs, the muscle, nerve and the brain mechanisms needed to run all this machinery (robots that perform these functions are the product of advanced intelligent design techniques).

However, a 1999 study in Nature analyzed the giant panda's thumb using computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and related techniques. Contrary to R. Slifkin's and Gould "poorly designed" panda's thumb, the study shows that the radial sesamoid bone (its "thumb") is "one of the most extraordinary manipulation systems" among mammals.
The way in which the giant pandaAiluropoda melanoleuca, uses the radial sesamoid bone — its ‘pseudo-thumb’ — for grasping makes it one of the most extraordinary manipulation systems in mammalian evolution. ...
The three-dimensional images we obtained indicate that the radial sesamoid bone cannot move independently of its articulated bones, as has been suggested, but rather acts as part of a functional unit of manipulation. The radial sesamoid bone and the accessory carpal bone form a double pincer-like apparatus in the medial and lateral sides of the hand, respectively, enabling the panda to manipulate objects with great dexterity. ...
We have shown that the hand of the giant panda has a much more refined grasping mechanism than has been suggested in previous morphological models.
[Endo, H., Yamagiwa, D., Hayashi, Y. H., Koie, H., Yamaya, Y., and Kimura, J. 1999. Nature 397: 309-310. Emphasis added]
For more on the Panda's thumb see here.

R. Slifkin should consider adding the case of the Panda's thumb to the errata list he has compiled for his book. In the preface to Challenge of Creation, R. Slifkin writes that he is "following the approach of the Rambam". This too should be added to the errata list. More to the point, R. Slifkin has embraced "theistic evolution". But, theistic evolution is a new (or at least different) religion whose dogma is contrary to the essence of our mesora

Friday, October 29, 2010

Strange parallelism

In a recent post entitled: Forcing the Opposition, NS criticized his opponents with the following paragraph:
The traditional way of arguing one's case - citing Rishonim and Acharonim - ceased to be relevant. All that was important was what the Gedolim say. This was a revolution which cannot be underestimated.
I tried to substitute a few words and found a telling parallelism:
The traditional way of arguing one's case - citing scholarly sources and scientific experiments - ceased to be relevant. All that was important was what the Global consensus says. This was a revolution which cannot be underestimated.
I hope this revolution will be reverted and NS will be ready to discuss the validity of the evolution of the species.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's Wrong With Rabbi Slifkin's Theology - Part 2

In our original post, we drew a clear distinction between belief in the doctrine of theistic evolution and the message of Purim which teaches that God is behind the affairs of our universe albeit in a hidden fashion. We demonstrated how the former doctrine is openly opposed by the verses of the Torah and the clear consensus of our ba'alei mesorah, whereas the latter is firmly grounded in normative Jewish theology. The current post aims to clarify some issues which came up subsequently in the comment section of the aforementioned post.

An interlocutor stated as follows:

Rabbi Coffer - do you only see the Hand of Hashem in the creation of nature? You don't see it in our lives today - in historical events, in how nature operates, in your personal life? Surely you must be aware that science explains all these things without recourse to a Creator; just in terms of random, blind processes. And I'm sure that you don't deny these scientific explanations. So if you believe that such scientific explanations deny seeing the hand of Hashem, aren't you ruling God out of the picture?

His question can be broken down into the following four components.

1) Surely we see the hand of Hashem in all of the affairs of our universe, not just its Creation.

He is, of course, correct

2) Surely we recognize that just as evolutionary theory appeals exclusively to random blind processes, so too do all forms of scientific endeavor appeal solely to unguided processes.

Although superficially this might seem to be true, it is in fact false and highly misleading as will be demonstrated shortly.

3) For the most part, we accept scientific explanations which explain the current events of our lives.

True, although as in the previous assertion, highly misleading. Our interlocutor then goes on to make the following leap of reasoning.

4) Since we’ve eliminated evolution due to the fact that it appeals exclusively to unguided forces, what gives us the right to accept other forms of scientific endeavor (I believe meteorology was one of the examples given)? By accepting some forms of scientific explanation, are we not tacitly admitting that God is not behind these explanations? And if we respond that we accept the science but reject the idea that God is not behind it, then why can we not adopt the same approach to evolution?

The truth of the matter is, this is little more than a paraphrase of Rabbi Slifkin’s argument and was directly addressed in the last post. As we mentioned there, evolution – inasmuch as it addresses the scientific view of the origins of multi-cellular life – is entirely incompatible with the Torah which clearly states that multi-cellular life originated via direct meta-natural fiat. He commanded the vegetation to begin sprouting on Day Three before the process of photo-synthesis was enacted on Day Four. He commanded the waters to generate fish on Day Five and the earth to generate animals on Day Six. In short, God wasn’t hiding behind the laws of nature. He was creating them!

On the other hand, at the completion of ma’aseh bereishis, Hashem did establish the laws of nature and then receded behind them. From that point on, the laws of Nature remain immutable. They remain consistent. And they remain predictable. Only at this point can science begin playing a role.

In order to grasp this idea fully, a few things must be explained up front. There are two distinct branches of science.

1) Operational / Technological

2) Historical / Origin based

The former category is primarily concerned with defining the physical properties of a given entity and defining the laws of nature which govern it. The reason we accept the conclusions of scientists in these fields is because they are nothing more than technical descriptions of physical reality. They have no bearing at all on theology. Their conclusions are all empirically observable and verifiable in the laboratory, and the byproducts of their research are productive and useful in promoting the welfare of mankind and the general human condition.

When it comes to these types of fields, theism is not a contradiction. Some of the greatest scientists in these fields were theists, such as Newton and Einstein. They didn’t feel that their religious beliefs in any way contradicted their work in science. But obviously they never appealed to "God" when attempting to formulate their theories. Just as a plumber doesn’t open up a chumash when he is learning how to thread a pipe, so too an engineer doesn’t look for assistance in thermodynamic theory by opening a mishna berura.

On the other hand, the conclusions of scientists in the Historical/Origin based sciences are an entirely different story. First of all, by their very nature their conclusions are not empirically observable. They theorize about what happened in the past by making backward extrapolations, sometimes vast extrapolations, which are based on the unfounded premise that the current laws of nature were exactly the same all along. This alone should give any intelligent individual pause; how can I possibly justify the unmitigated acceptance of scientific conclusions in these fields without even questioning them? Especially since their conclusions change as often as a baby’s diapers.

Second of all, their field of enterprise has everything to do with theology. For instance, let’s take evolution. Evolution is concerned with attempting to describe precisely how we can account for the incredible variety of endlessly complex life forms present on earth. Evolutionary theory is one theory but Intelligent Design is at least an equally valid theory. Yet the majority of scientists insist that Intelligent Design not be granted any credence at all. Any objective individual would have to ask himself "why not"? But the answer is obvious and is echoed by practically every philosopher of science. Here’s what famous evolutionist Richard Lewontin of Harvard University has to say.

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. (Richard C. Lewontin, The New York Review of Books, Billions and Billions of Demons, January 9, 1997)

There's the problem! Intelligent design sounds too much like God. After all, God would be a perfect candidate. And therefore, under no circumstances can we allow a Divine Foot in the door. It’s not that Intelligent Design is inherently flawed in any way. It’s that it countermands their philosophy of materialism. So why shouldn’t we reject their scientific conclusions in these fields? Especially when the Torah openly implies that the evolutionary model is entirely false!

Once we’ve gotten to this point, theistic evolution becomes irrelevant for two reasons. First of all, it is entirely unnecessary and second of all it openly contradicts the Torah’s description of recent, rapid Creation via meta-natural fiat.

This concludes our treatment of the Blind Watchmaker Thesis and why it is not compatible with the Torah. In our next post, we will deal with what I personally feel is most objectionable about Rabbi Slifkin’s theology.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The manifestation of Supreme Intelligence

One of the greatest disservices that evolution's blind watchmaker thesis has done to mankind is to deprive it of that which should be manifest to any thoughtful person, that the universe is saturated with plan and purpose.
Molecular machines, although it may often seem so, are not made with a blueprint at hand. Yet, biochemists and molecular biologists (and many scientists of other disciplines) are used to thinking as an engineer, more precisely a reverse engineer. But there are no blueprints … ‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’: we know that Dobzhansky (1973) must be right. But our mind, despite being a product of tinkering itself strangely wants us to think like engineers. (Walter Neupert, "Highlight: Molecular Machines," Biological Chemistry, Vol. 386(8):711, August, 2005. Emphasis added.). 
I actually don't know why Dobzhansky must be right? As a professional engineer with a PhD in Electrical Engineering, I am astounded at the coded information (surpassing anything that we engineers have been able to do even with Shannon communication theory, control theory and Turing machines) in the DNA nanotechnology molecular machinery of the cell. Wherever we have checked into the origins of systems of coded-information/Turing machines, intelligence is always implicated (check the manufacturer's label on your PC). So when we see the same systems (without the manufacturer's label) in the DNA of the cell, then we are entitled to conclude that intelligence is implicated.

Here is what would convince me that Darwin and his successors were on to something: provide a detailed Darwinian pathway for the emergence of the molecular machinery in the cell with probability greater than 10^(-150) starting from dead chemicals (*). A detailed Darwinian pathway is one that may use any chance or natural processes, but it may not appeal to intelligent guidance. The outcome should be judged by qualified experts on both sides of the evolution-creation controversy. Alternatively, see here.

In Chapter 19 of Challenge of Creation, the author writes that some scientists admit they do not know how life originated via naturalistic processes but that other scientists feel that "there is a viable naturalistic explanation" for the origin of life". The question is not what scientists believe or feel. The question is what have they actually demonstrated? Come to think of it, if R. Slifkin is correct, he might be able to win a million dollars here.

(*) There are about 10^80 elementary particles in the universe. The properties of matter are such that the transition from one state to another cannot occur faster than 10^45 times per second corresponding to the Planck time, the smallest meaningful unit of time. Assuming an age for the universe of 13.7b years according to the evolutionists, that is about a billion times younger than 10^25 seconds. Putting that all together, there could not be more than 10^150 events in cosmic history. So a probability bound of 1 in 10^150 is a universal probability bound using all the probabilistic resources of the cosmos according to consensus science. Emil Borel provided a more stringent bound of 1 in 10^50, but we want to make it as easy as possible for evolutionists to provide the requisite scientific demonstration. Dobzhansky was talking about biological evolution but scientists have extended the blind-watchmaker thesis to chemical evolution as well. Any combination of biological and chemical evolution are addressed in this post, and that is what is meant by a Darwinian pathway).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Creator or Blind Watchmaker?

Darwin's Blind Watchmaker Thesis is the current scientific consensus explanation that accounts for the origin of the species. It claims that the diversity and complexity of life (e.g. eyes, wings, and the mammalian brain) is an accidental result of an unguided purely natural process.  R. Slifkin claims that evolution’s Blind Watchmaker Thesis is compatible with traditional beliefs about G-d. There are four problems with this claim.
  1. Is evolution as defined by the scientists true? Scientific evidence for this claim has not been produced to the level of confirmation standard in the hard sciences. Only when the scientific evidence has been produced, need we ask if it is compatible with Torah,
  2. As a religious Jew,  R. Slifkin’s view of science is actually something quite different from the scientific consensus. His view is that G-d guides evolution---contradicting the scientific consensus of accidental unguided evolution. Indeed, contra R. Slifkin, evolution’s Blind Watchmaker Thesis is incompatible with Torah.
  3. If R. Slifkin allows himself leeway to contradict the scientific consensus then the same leeway should be allowed  to those who believe in the historicity of the Torah’s account of creation. Yet R. Slifkin consistently insists that we are bound by the vaunted objectivity of the scientific consensus.
  4. Both theistic and atheistic forms of evolution are committed to scientific naturalism, something that contradicts the Torah’s account of the meta-natural Creation Week ending with the first Sabbath of creation.
The last objection is critical because it shows R. Slifkin’s claim to be in violation of fundamental principles of Torah. When we make kiddush every Friday night, the one thing we are not doing is celebrating evolution’s Blind Watchmaker Thesis.

Tables 1 and 2 (here) compare the Torah's meta-natural creation week with Science's Blind Watchmaker Thesis (Table 1) as well as with R. Slifkin's approach (Table 2).

The tables are tentative. I hope that readers might comment on them (producing prooftexts where they disagree). While I am unable to commit to respond to all of the comments, I will PG try to read all of them, and I'll change the tables in response to pertinent new information. I truly appreciate all our readers for taking the time to comment to this post and all the previous ones.

Latest developments: R. Slifkin’s refusal to debate

This is a brief update as readers are probably familiar with some of the details of this issue (also summarized in the attached letter).
On the extended series of posts and comment threads, NS presented 12 reasons/excuses for not debating the scientific validity of the evolution of the species. Those reasons were already analyzed in the summary letter; nevertheless NS has not accepted to debate.
NS wrote that should I send new comments inviting him to debate or to answer my summary letter, he is not going to post them. He also wrote he is not going to allow me to use his forum to elaborate on the evidence supporting or refuting the evolution of the species. In fact he did not publish my last answers regarding these issues although he continued publishing other bloggers questioning me on this subject. NS has repeatedly refused to answer my summary letter. Recently he published his own summary. So I wrote to him:
“I read your summary letter. Again you are misrepresenting my position (and even your position). Are you ready to discuss your summary letter point by point?”
He refused to discuss its contents. I am still willing to discuss in an intellectual, multimedia (sources on screen), respectful, protocolized, neutral, public forum with NS or a representative (Jewish or not) of his choice, on any scientific issue relevant to his 5 controversial books, i.e.
  1. Creation of the universe (Big Bang Cosmology).
  2. Chemical evolution (increasingly complex elements, molecules and compounds developed from the simpler chemical elements that were created in the Big Bang).
  3. The age of the universe.
  4. Biological evolution (of the species).
  5. “Dr. Betech's own model of recent special creation” (as NS named it).
  6. The accuracy of science-related statements made by Chaza”l.
  7. After the debate on the scientific issues will be concluded, I am also ready to debate the validity of the theological sources presented by NS on these issues.
At the end of Masechet Sotah we have a description of the pre-messianic times, including the prophetic statement “vehaemet tihye neederet” (the Truth will be absent). Shenizke bekarov lebiat Goel Tzedek berachamim.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Guest Post: Is the Purim story a model for Theistic Evolution?




The comparison of theistic Darwinian evolution with the providence behind the Purim story is faulty for the following reason. The classic commentators to Megillas Esther typically pinpoint which events in the story proved to be pivotal and directly providential. Examples include: the unlikely refusal of Vashti to appear at the feast, The fortuitous overhearing of the plot against the life of the emperor by Mordechai the sleeplessness of the emperor together with the merit of Mordechai read to him precisely when hamman pays the emperor an unusual early morning visit the stumbling of hamman upon Esther at the moment the emperor returns from his walk. etc.,etc. 

The commentators imply that the Divine providence behind the Purim story is not merely perceived through the ultimate salvation of the Jews from extreme peril at the hands of Hamman. It is the specific timing and manipulation of specific events and characters involved as the story unfolds which make the divine providence manifest in the Purim story. True, they aren't open miracles which defy any law of nature, but the Purim story serves to explicitly place G-d within the human world and serves to illustrate His active interest and ongoing involvement in human history and the fate of the Jews. It is not just a story about faith in the unseen hand Divine Providence. It is a story which serves as confirmation and vindication of that faith in the real world. The events cannot be adequately explained by an observer, without invoking a Providential hand. 

The Divine providence which Rabbi Slifkin is attributing to Darwinian evolution is abstract and completely imperceptible to any theoretical close observer. One only "sees" G-d's involvement in these events (or in their final result) as purely an expression of faith. From an observer's point-of-view, this faith is arbitrarily inserted by the believer and contributes nothing to the understanding of the events in practical terms. This is not how the commentaries describe the Providence behind the events of the Purim story. Thus, ID is more closely parallel to the Purim story inasmuch as it pinpoints those precise areas where the materialistic explanations fall short and an Intelligent force becomes manifest in the development of life. 

And just as the classic commentators certainly do not exclude the expression of faith that G-d is ultimately behind all events of history and all natural processes, even if they are not manifest, the proposition of ID similarly does not rule out such a faith. It merely analyzes if and when Divine providence upgrades to a more open and manifest level--when materialistic forces decisively fail to deliver a cogent explanation for the phenomena and it is scientifically compelling to invoke a non-material manipulation. But Rabbi Slifkin's charge that the ID approach is heresy reveals a deep misunderstanding of the cautious, critical method of identifying those demonstrable areas of a higher manifestation of Providence evident in the development of life.

(The above was submitted as an anonymous comment, but seems important in its own right. Comments to it will be open as usual. I very much appreciate the respectful tone that those who have contributed comments have adopted. This is not to say that vigorous critiques of our posts are not appreciated. They are and they allow us to achieve clarity, if not agreement. Also, as is usual on this blog, authors of our posts are unfortunately unable to guarantee a response, much as they would love to do it)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Legitimate Torah Attitudes

Post deleted (Oct, 17, 2010) at the request of R. Lampel due to errors in in it (see comments). R. Lampel will revise this article. With our sincere apologies to our dear readers. YSO

Friday, October 15, 2010

What's Wrong With Rabbi Slifkin's Theology?

In apparent response to criticism on this blog, Rabbi Slifkin replies with a passionate, vigorous, well-considered theological argument in favor of theistic evolution. And although I think he invokes the "k" word a bit too much for my tastes, his argument seems otherwise compelling, at least ostensibly. So I suppose the question is: What’s wrong with Rabbi Slifkin’s theology?

Rabbi Slifkin writes that he "cannot see any difference - any difference at all" between attributing the hidden Hand of God to "the [apparently] random, unplanned, circumstantial luck of history" and attributing it to "the neo-Darwinian evolutionary mechanism of random genetic mutation plus natural selection, which most scientists see as explaining how life evolved".

But the difference is obvious. It is glaring. And it is inescapable. Nowhere in the Torah are we enjoined to understand the natural phenomena of our universe in meta-natural terms. On the contrary, as Rabbi Slifkin so eloquently puts it, "The entire purpose of Purim is to teach us that even seemingly chance events are seen by their eventual results to have been part of a greater plan, and not as random as they superficially appeared" (Challenge pg. 292-3).

On the other hand, and in diametric opposition, the Biblical account of ma’aseh bereishis is described in purely meta-natural terms. Furthermore, every single pre-evolutionary massoretic source known to us describes it in precisely the same terms! The reason the Torah bothered to describe the particulars of ma’aseh bereishis (as opposed to just stating the fact of Divine Creation, as it does several times later on) is precisely this: to inform us that ma’aseh bereishis is impossible to describe via currently operating, seemingly random chance mechanisms. The story of ma’aseh beresihis is an open testimony to Hashem’s presence, not a hidden one.

Now, there are several possible responses Rabbi Slifkin can avail himself of but none of them are capable of defeating this argument. Let’s explore the possibilities.

1) There are some post-evolutionary Rabbinical sources which entertain the possibility of evolutionary theory as a model for the unfolding of Creation.

At the risk of invoking the wrath of my dear readers, I maintain that a tiny smattering of post-evolutionary sources do not possess the ability to unseat our long-standing mesorah. Especially when their statements can easily be attributed to pedagogy and especially when their real opinions are indeed aligned with the mesorah.

2) There is overwhelming physical evidence proving the evolutionary model of common descent ("my studies of zoology have led me to the conclusion that the evidence for common ancestry is overwhelming") thus justifying a rejection of our 3000 year uncontested mesorah and a reinterpretation of the verses in the Torah.

This is simply false. Rabbi Slifkin himself asserts that the primary lines of evidence for common descent are no stronger than those supporting the mechanisms. Here’s a quote from his book The Science of Torah page 144. (my emphases).

Scientists consider evidence for common ancestry to be very strong indeed. Futuyma even rates common ancestry as fact, relative to explanations of evolutionary mechanisms, which he terms theory. Actually, scientists are often being presumptuous when they give such a status to the evidence for common ancestry, as they generally are not giving serious consideration to explanations for it in light of other possibilities (such as Divine creation, panspermia, or some other unknowable process).

He also admits that primary lines of evidence for common ancestry are sometimes equally consistent with Special Creation and sometimes actually point to Special Creation! Here are the quotes. (my emphases)

Homology

A separate line of objection to the concept of homologous similarities being used as evidence for common ancestry is that it has to be considered in light of alternative possibilities, such as that each species was separately created by God. But with this scenario, homologous similarities also make sense. Since the pentadactyl limb (Rabbi Slifkin is referring to the limb possessing a five-fingered construction found in a variety of vertebrate creatures such as humans, bats, whales, dogs, etc.) is a good component for a bodyplan, why shouldn’t God use it for all sorts of different functions? IRemove Formatting from selectionndeed, homologous similarities were understood well before Darwin, and were explained in precisely this way.

Fossil Evidence

David Raup of the University of Chicago, one of the world’s most respected paleontologists, wrote as follows in a letter to Science magazine: A large number of well-trained scientists outside of evolutionary biology and paleontology have unfortunately gotten the idea that the fossil record is far more Darwinian than it is. This probably comes from the oversimplification inevitable in secondary sources: low level textbooks, semi popular articles, and so on. Also there is probably some wishful thinking involved. In the years after Darwin, his advocates hoped to find predictable progressions… In general these have not been found – yet the optimism dies hard, and some pure fantasy has crept into textbooks… One of the ironies of the evolutioncreation debate is that the creationists have accepted the mistaken notion that the fossil record shows a detailed and orderly progression and they have gone to great lengths to accommodate this "fact" in the Flood geology (Science, vol. 213 p. 289).

On page 150, he writes. (my emphases)

In fact, it was largely the paucity of the fossil record that led to Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge’s theory of Punctuated Equilibrium. As Gould writes, the fossil record does not show the predicted gradual sequence of transitions:

The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism:

1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless.

2. Sudden appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and "fully formed." The Episodic Nature of Evolutionary Change, in The Panda’s Thumb. p. 180

Gould and Eldredge therefore theorized that evolution occurs too fast to leave a trace in the fossil record. (It should be noted that "fast" in their terms does not mean over a few years; it means over a few thousand years rather than over a few million years.)

… Futuyma states that because we know evolution progresses rapidly, it is to be expected that the fossil record will show few transitional forms! Whereas the truth is the reverse: Because there are so few transitional forms, it is therefore theorized that evolution progresses rapidly. Punctuated Equilibrium is an apologetic for the fossil record, not a prediction of it.

Incredible! Rabbi Slifkin openly admits that Punctuated Equilibrium is merely a desperate attempt by evolutionists to avoid the glaring contradiction to evolutionary theory from the rocks.

3) The global community of scientists asserts that common descent is a fact.

This final response is frequently invoked by Rabbi Slifkin and is easily the most maddening response to those with even a modicum of exposure to the Philosophy of Science.

Let’s analyze this claim for a moment.

a) Rabbi Slifkin seems to be aware of the materialistic philosophy which attends the mainstream scientific enterprise and is thus willing to go on record and battle their assertion that science proves evolutionary processes are entirely blind (Blind Watchmaker Thesis). Instead, he asserts that God is somehow behind the whole thing (theistic evolution).

b) He is also willing to question the validity of the scientific mechanisms proposed by evolutionists to accomplish the prodigious feat of speciation although absent the mechanisms the theory is actually incoherent (as any evolutionist will admit to you).

c) Yet, when it comes to questioning their assertions re common ancestry, his brain suddenly turns to mush! What happened? Did the clock suddenly strike twelve?

What principled distinction can Rabbi Slifkin possibly possess which would account for his animated rejection of a) i.e. the scientific assertion that evolution is, per-force, entirely G-dless, and b) i.e. that evolution has valid mechanisms accounting for macro-evolutionary prossesses, while simultaneously accepting c) i.e. common ancestry is unquestionable? Don’t forget, #3 merely states that "the global community of scientists says so", nothing more. There is no attempt to investigate the evidence, no attempt to question the science. Just a blanket acceptance of scientific dogma. Why Rabbi Slifkin, why?

In light of the latter objection, YSO's criticism on this blog is especially poignant: "The blind watchmaker thesis is supposed to account for eyes, wings, the mammalian brain and everything else. What utter nonsense! There is not a single shred of evidence in support of it." Now YSO might be right and he might be wrong. But one thing is for sure; he never gets intimidated enough to turn off his brain. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what "mechanism" was responsible for Rabbi Slifkin’s unilateral submission.

I have much more to say on this topic but we will have to save it for another time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Betech-Slifkin Debate: As it Stands Now


The following is a synopsis of the activity relating to the ongoing Betech/Slifkin debate saga.

Rabbi Slifkin has authored several books which attempt to reconcile the modern theory of evolution with the Biblical Creation Event. In these books, Rabbi Slifkin takes the theory of evolution for granted and thus resorts to reinterpreting the verses in the Torah such that they accord with the dictates of the theory.

Dr. Betech has challenged Rabbi Slifkin on numerous occasions to defend his evolutionary model of Creation by publicly debating the merits of evolutionary theory but Rabbi Slifkin has consistently refused to engage Dr. Betech in debate.

Rabbi Slifkin then challenged Dr. Betech to publicly defend his Biblical model of Creation to which Dr. Betech agreed providing Rabbi Slifkin first acquiesce to Dr. Betech’s prior request and debate him on the merits of evolution.

As it stands now, Dr. Betech is willing to publicly defend his version of the Creation model providing Rabbi Slifkin first responds to Dr. Betech’s request.

And as it stands now, Rabbi Slifkin is not willing, under any circumstances, to defend his own publicly disseminated view of Creation and insists that Dr. Betech forgo his own request and acquiesce to Rabbi Slifkin’s challenge.

(See
here for Dr. Betech's account of the exchange.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

R. Slifkin's Problematic Blind Watchmaker Thesis

In the comments to his blog entry (October 12, 2010 7:19 PM), R. Slifkin said: Now I have a question for you Dr. Betech. Considering Rav Hirsch's words, don't you think that it is important to show that evolution can be reconciled with Judaism...

The short answer to R. Slifkin is -- absolutely no! And I mean within the Torah hashkafa of Rav Hirsch zt"l.

The modern definition of evolution is common descent via blind, mindless, unguided, purposeless processes such as random mutation and natural selection  --  the blind watchmaker thesis. Even Darwin said that he would consider his theory to be rubbish if he would need to appeal to G-d for any one stage. As Richard Dawkins sums it up with evident approval "For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all". Evolution without the blind watchmaker thesis is not evolution at all. At best (or perhaps at worse), it would be common descent with meta-natural guidance from G-d (something that the scientists R. Slifkin relies categorically reject). 

The quotes in Collected Writings and in his commentary to Chumash (here) show Rav Hirsch in absolute opposition to evolution's blind watchmaker thesis. And in his later writings, Rav Hirsch also rejected common descent and the whole man-from-proto-monkey nonsense. 
Question for R. Slifkin: Have you provided even one quote from all the works of Rav Hirsch zt"l that explicitly support the blind watchmaker thesis? 
Let me answer that one. No! R. Slifkin's blog and books deeply misrepresent Rav. Hirsch. 

As Rabbi Elias points out, in the entirely hypothetical case that overwhelming evidence can be brought to bear, Rav Hirsch would accept it, provided there is clear evidence that it works and that it does not depend on random processes and natural selection, but is seen as a Divinely planned and instituted development. These conditions were not met in his time, and they are certainly not met today. (Rabbi Joseph Elias, The Nineteen Letters, Feldheim 1995, page 44).

As Rabbi Yehuda Halevi puts it: 
Heaven forbid that there be anything manifest or proved which could contradict anything in the Torah (Kuzari I:67)
The blind watchmaker thesis is supposed to account for eyes, wings, the mammalian brain and everything else. What utter nonsense! There is not a single shred of evidence in support of it. R. Slifkin knows this and this is why he has refused to debate Dr. Betech.


(This was originally a comment to the previous entry, but has now been slightly revised into a post.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Wisdom of Rav Hirsch zt"l





Here are some quotes from Rav Hirch that you will not see on R. Slifkin's blog (here). In direct contradiction to the evolutionary dogma of common descent, the Torah tells us that the Biblical types are immutable:
With this eleventh verse we enter the sphere of organic life. We see דשא, the vegetation that sprouts from the soil, the seed-bearing plants and the fruit trees that bear fruit. We learn that all these countless varieties of creation are governed by one and the same law: למינהו, למינו. Each of them is to work only for its own species and to develop only within the circumscribed sphere assigned to its own kind. We read the momentous sentence, the key to understanding the plant world: ויאמר אלקים תדשא הארץ. By God’s Word, the earth sprouted vegetation; He is the One who decreed the law of למינו, which governs every plant as regards material and form; and God’s Word still activates, reveals itself in, and powerfully governs every plant and every seedling.
   This Divine law of  למינו, which governs the whole organic world, renders two different species “כלאים”; the two species are כלואים, closed, one to the other, do not combine or unite. Each species preserves its reproductive energies only למינו, for its own species, and only human caprice would force it into unnatural, that is, unlawful unions. If left to itself, each seedling will belong to its own species as exclusively as did its earliest ancestor, concerning which and concerning all of whose descendants the Creator first proclaimed His law: למינהו!
   Let us look further into our verse: עץ פרי עשה פרי למינו אשר זרעו בו על הארץ, “a fruit tree that bears fruit for its species, (fruit) in which its seed (of the tree, or of the species) is above the earth.” The first tree was produced by the earth, but from then onward the seed of trees was taken away from the earth, to mature על הארץ, above the earth. Henceforth, the earth is to receive the seed, develop it, and dispense it. (RSRH to Gen 1:13, emphasis added)
On the sixth day man is created, not from an ape-like hominid, but directly from the passive earth.
   So we read here: וייצר ה' אלקים את האדם עפר מן האדמה ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים ויהי האדם לנפש חיה, meaning: The Creator and Director of the world wished to bestow favor upon, and to elevate, His world. Hence, He formed man, dust of the ground, and breathed into his countenance the breath of life, and thus man became a living personality.
   At the creation of all other creatures, Scripture says: תוצא הארץ נפש חיה, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures.” The earth was active in their creation, just as it was active in the creation of plant life; and the earth brought forth their life, just as it brought forth their body. The earth brought forth the living individual. Not so at the creation of man. The earth was passive in his creation, even in the creation of his body. The earth’s activity for the creation of man ended before his creation.
   But even after his body was formed from the earth, he was still merely עפר. It does not say: God formed man מן העפר, from the dust of the ground, but, rather: וייצר ה' אלקים את האדם עפר מן האדמה. He formed him, dust of the ground; man originates from the earth – only to the extent that he is עפר, that he comes from the earth and, like dust, will return to the earth. But man’s life and vital soul do not originate from the earth. The body that was formed for man lay lifeless like עפר; ה' אלקים then breathed into his countenance the breath of life, and only thus did man become a living personality. (Gen 2.7)
The body of man was not a living hominid that evolved into a human. Rather, the body of man, formed directly from the earth, lay “lifeless” until G-d breathed into his countenance the breath of life (see Ramban).
   Clearly, then, תולדות השמים והארץ are the products of heaven and earth; they include everything that is produced after Creation, as a result or “product” of the interaction between heaven and earth. … Heaven and earth stand in passive – not active – relation to their products; they are not creating gods, but are themselves creations. Their products seem natural, because they are produced according to the laws of their nature, which appear to be fixed and stable. But this nature of theirs is itself something that was created; the laws by which they function, produce and develop were implanted in them at their creation. All תולדות שמים וארץ were determined בהבראם; their origin is in their creation. (Gen 2:4)
A creation “day” is not a long period of time period or an allegory, but rather a known unit of time consisting of an earthly period of night followed by an earthly day.
    ויקרא אלקים לאור: יום! ולחשך קרא לילה!. This קריאה is not name-giving, for the words light and day are by no means identical. Rather, “day” – as a unit of time – denotes the measure of time in which light rules over the earth; and “day”, as a natural phenomenon, denotes all the phenomena of life that materialize as a result of the light during that measure of time. (Gen. 1;5)
 A creation “day” is divided into hours and minutes in anticipation of the Jewish Holydays.
   Regarding the time-function of the light-bearers, Scripture adds: ולימים ולשנים. The regular paths of the heavenly bodies divide our time intoמועדים ; and the day, too, is divided into hours and minutes. But the days are not equal to one another, and they form smaller and larger periods, in accordance with the position of the earth vis-à-vis the moon and sun. ימים and שנים are formed: ימים are smaller periods of days, viz., months; שנים are larger periods of days, viz., years. Or: ימים, periods of days, viz., years, and שנים, periods of years, viz., cycles. (Gen 1:19). 
During the six days of creation, nature itself was brought into existence. This is why it is illegitimate to make vast backwards extrapolations from what we currently observe. The six days of creation was a unique one time sequence of creative events in which new laws, creatures and formations were directly brought into existence by the word of G-d. Any laws currently in effect cannot be used to describe this six days of chidush haolam. The essential purpose of the Sabbath is to celebrate the complete cessation of all new creative activity, and the initiation of a new phase in which G-d guides the universe in accordance with the laws of nature He proclaimed. This is why we do not see any fundamentally new laws and entities popping into existence.
   ויכלו השמים והארץ וכל צבאם. This verse is the concluding statement of the history of Creation, and it parallels the opening statement. The opening of the Creation history shows us heaven and earth, and proclaims of them: בראשית! From the very beginning God created these! Now the conclusion again shows us heaven and earth, and proclaims of them: ויכלו! Heaven and earth were brought to this completion! They had not always existed, but, rather, were brought into existence. And before they were brought into existence, they existed as an intention in the thought of their Creator. The heaven and the earth and all their host, were, at one time, merely a thought in the mind of their Creator, and the actualization of this thought was the purpose of their creation. The cause of the existence of heaven and earth does not lie in themselves; they are not the cause of their having come into existence – a view that is self-contradictory, irrational and absurd! The cause of their existence lies outside of themselves; and they are not the result of some force working blindly, but the creative work of a lone Creator, Who created them with intention and purpose, ויכלו!
   The Sages define this concept in greater clarity: המעשים היו מותחין והולכים (Bereishis Rabbah 10:5), the matter and forces which had been called into existence were in a state of continuous development – until God called out ויכלו! and set a limit to their development. He acted as שקי – i.e., שאמר לעולמו די; He called out to His world: די. שאלמלא לשמים וארץ די עד עכשיו היו מותחין והולכין, “Had He not said to heaven and earth: ‘Enough!’ they would still today be in a state of continuous development” (ibid. 46:2). (כלה is also synonymous with כלא, and means “to stop, restrain, fence in,” as in לא יכלה ממך (below, 23:6); ואת בניהם כלו בבית (Shmuel I, 6:10). These are all different nuances of the same concept: to set a limit.)
   The ending of creation, the cessation of formation of new creations – in a word: the present Sabbath of creation – is a greater revelation of the Creator than the very existence of heaven and earth. If, as the materialistic outlook on the world has taught throughout the world has taught throughout the ages, the origin of the world was due to physical causes not founded on thought and free will; if the world originated from forces of nature that are inherent in the world – why, then, has there been a Sabbath in creation for thousands of years? Why have these forces ceased to function and to produce with great power new creations? Why has the cause – which still exists – ceased producing the effect? What has put an end to its creative power? We see that for generations upon generations creation has ceased, and Sabbath has reigned in the world. This teaches us that the present Sabbath was preceded by purposeful, all-powerful creative activity, and that the universe is not a physical result of blind forces of nature, but a moral work of a Creator endowed with supreme wisdom, free will, and unlimited power. ...
Thus, ויכלו protests against any materialistic world view that denies the existence of a free Creator. ויכלו attests to the creation of the world by a free, wise, and almighty God. (Gen 2.1)
The belief that the world is eternal or that its creation is dependent upon any pre-existing aspect of nature is “not only a metaphysical falsehood, a misrepresentation of the origin of the universe, but even worse: it undermines all morality, and denies all freedom in both God and man”..


From the same essay in Collected Writings quoted on R. Slifkin's blog (The Educational Value of Judaism, vol. VII), Rav Hirsch writes:
If anyone were to claim that a font of type carelessly dropped from a type case could rearrange itself to compose an Iliad, or Schiller's Lied von der Glocke, or even an ABC primer, it is certain that the entire scientific community, even today, would commit him to a lunatic asylum. The same fate would befall anyone who would argue that an accidental convergence of materials could produce a building with symmetrical proportions, or a laboratory instrument, or a machine capable of specified functions, or even one little screw that could be used as a functional part of such an instrument or machine. Physiology has not succeeded thus far-and until we receive proof to the contrary we dare say it will never succeed in explaining the creative force behind the origins of a specifically-oriented cell structure, not to speak of the impulse that triggers the union of specific cells into functional organs or the union of functional organs into specific, homogenously coordinated forms of life. We can say with certainty that the nearer a physiologist in his research comes to that sphere which the nonphysiologist perceives as "freedom," the more often he will encounter, even in studying the most primitive forms of life, sphinxlike mysteries that defy easy, clear-cut solutions.
Rabbi Hirsch anticipated many of the problems that continue to plague evolutionism today, including the vexed problem of the origin of life and the staggering implausibility of pre-biotic chemical evolution. The essay argues that biology “will never succeed” in explaining the sphinxlike mysteries behind the creative forces responsible for the origin of complex coordinated organs.
It may be easier for him, given the wonders of spectral analysis, to obtain information about the physical composition of the sun or of even more distant stars than to use the formulas of mechanics and physics to explain that "something" which everyone can sense deep within his own soul, which remains untouched by the physical changes around it, which alone makes consciousness possible and which non-physiologists presume to define as "the spirit." It is equally certain that every bodily organ functions in accordance with specific physiological laws. Thus, the functions of the eye, for instance, are subject to the laws of physiology and optics. Yet, to continue with the analogy of the eye, the focusing of its functions upon a specific objective, the viewing and examination of a specific object, is subject to an act of free will of which we are all conscious. We could compare this – forgive the analogy – to the operation of a steamship engine. The operation and fueling of the engine are governed by the laws of physics. But the steering of the ship, its movement away from one shore and toward another, its landing in a given harbor, is not accomplished by the puffing of the steam, or the noisy thrust of the pistons, nor even by the stokers who sweat as they feed the fires, but by the firm pressure of a hand, guided by a will and an intelligence, at the helm of the ship, quietly and soundlessly directing the seagoing giant and all the energies operating within it to a predetermined destination. As certain as all these facts are, so certain is it that, with all the progress recorded by the natural sciences, the timeless truths of Judaism remain unaltered. Indeed, each discovery in the natural sciences only confirms the fundamental truth first set forth by Judaism: There can be no thought without a thinker, no order without a regulator, no law without a lawgiver, no culture without a creative spirit, no world without G-d and no man without the gift of free-willed morality.
R. Slifkin has been very critical of ID (Intelligent Design). These are the folks who are skeptical of common descent via blind mindless processes, and who argue that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not undirected processes (such as random mutation and natural selection). Rav Hirsch's position is that the realization that there must be an omnipotent Creator and Ruler of the world, would come to anyone who thoughtfully contemplates nature.
At the end of Psalm 18, David announces that the dissemination of the knowledge and worship of the Lord, to be effected by means of his songs, would be his main purpose in life and the fruit of his sorely-tried stay on earth. Here we have perhaps the most significant example of such a psalm. It has as its theme the sources from which one could come to recognize the Lord and worship Him. To David these sources are the book of nature, from which he derives his knowledge of G-d, and the Torah, from which he has learned how to worship Him. David states that the revelation at Sinai was not essential for the recognition of the fact that there must be someone Who is the omniponent creator, regulator and ruler of all the world. The realization that there must be a G-d could come to anyone who thoughtfully contemplates nature and the heavens in particular (RSRH to Psalm 19, Verses 2-7)





Monday, October 11, 2010

Q & A on the Young Earth Model of Creation

Instead of accepting Dr. Betech’s challenge to defend his evolutionary model of Creation, Rabbi Slifkin chooses to ignore his request and rather challenges Dr. Betech with ten questions on his yet undefined "model". This is patently inequitable. Dr. Betech is certainly not to be blamed if he chooses to ignore Rabbi Slifkin’s request. However, since the purpose of this blog is to assess Rabbi Slifkin’s opinions on his Rationalist Blog, we will respond to all of his questions. In addtion, we will append ten of our own on Rabbi Slifkin’s model. Assuming Dr. Betech agrees with some or all of our responses, he can respond on Rabbi Slifkin’s blog by referring readers to this blog entry. Rabbi Slifkin’s questions are copied here followed by the response. His original blog entry may be found here.

Before responding to the questions below, a short introduction is in order. For purposes of clarity, let’s refer to Rabbi Slifkin’s model as the Evolutionary Model (EM) and Dr. Betech’s model as the Creation Model (CM). There is a fundamental distinction between these two models. The point of departure for the EM is Evolution. Any apparent contradictions between Torah and Evolution must ultimately be resolved in a way which accords with the current academic view of Evolution. Consequently, the EM is frequently attended by questionable practices such as the reinterpretation of biblical verses or the unilateral rejection of its unanimous and long-standing massoretic interpretations.

On the other hand, the point of departure for the CM is the Creation Event as depicted in the Torah and the non-homiletic, historical based interpretations of the mesorah. These interpretations span 3000 years and are unanimous, as can be seen here and here. In this case, the goal of one who adheres to the CM is twofold. The primary goal is to attempt to resolve contradictions between Evolution and Torah by analyzing Evolutionary theory and determining whether it indeed constitutes a contradiction to the CM. If it turns out that evolution is nothing more than an unproved and unprovable hypothesis, possessing no real evidence, then evolution no longer constitutes a threat to the CM and the primary goal has been achieved. An ancillary goal is to attempt to demonstrate that scientific evidence actually supports the Torah’s descriptions of Creation as understood by our mesorah. As it turns out, the scientific evidence does indeed support the Torah, as will be demonstrated shortly.

Keeping this in mind, we are now prepared to address Rabbi Slifkin’s questions.

1. What is your evidence that the universe is 5771 years old, and not five thousand, fifty thousand, or five hundred thousand years old?

Answer: If the term "evidence" here refers to direct physical evidence of a world not even one year older or one year younger than the traditional date, there isn’t any. But anyone can see that such a question is disingenuous. However, if Rabbi Slifkin wants evidence for 5771 versus 50,000, that’s easy. One line of evidence is the fact that written historical records basically coincide with a young-earth scenario. Historical records do not go back further than 5-6000 years which coincides well with the CM model.

Question to Rabbi Slifkin: Evolution claims that mankind broke away from chimps about 6-7 million years ago and slowly advanced in intelligence. Ultimately they reached the level of the modern human with his attendant level of intelligence and technological advancement. My question is the following. Based on the current level of human advancement and projecting backwards over 7 million years, we should expect to see written historical records of mankind for at least 100,000 years. After all, this amounts to not much more than 1 percent of mankind’s entire evolution. Surely after almost 99% of mankind’s evolution already behind it, it should be advanced enough to keep records, a feat far less complicated than most of its other technological advancements, such as advanced architecture.

2. Scientific hypotheses make testable predictions and are thus falsifiable. For example, evolution predicts that all animals descend from a common ancestor and thus fit into a family tree, and thus Rashi's description of a mermaid - a creature that is half human and half fish - will never be discovered and cannot exist. What testable predictions does your model make, and how could it be theoretically proven false?

Answer: The CM model is not in the business of making testable predictions. However, theoretically speaking there are many testable predictions associated with it. I suppose the most obvious one would be that when the geological record would be investigated, it would yield the sudden appearance of species in the record as opposed to a gradual unfolding of the species from one form to the next. Obviously the falsification of this prediction would be the appearance of slow, gradual transformations from one species to the next.

Another obvious prediction would be that the species would all fall into a fixed number of unique categories. (See RSRH’s commentary on parshas Bereishis, especially as pertains to the term l’mino). Obviously the falsification of this prediction would occur if a study of Zoology would reveal the presence of a continuous spectrum of barely distinguishable intermediate species.

Question to Rabbi Slifkin: You write,

"Scientific hypotheses make testable predictions and are thus falsifiable. For example, evolution predicts that all animals descend from a common ancestor and thus fit into a family tree "

Precisely! And this prediction has been falsified! A study of geology and paleontology does not reveal the picture of a family tree the way Evolution envisions it. In fact, phenomena like the Cambrian Explosion turn this tree quite literally upside down. The truth is this clearly seems to support the CM of Dr. Betech while falsifying yours.

Furthermore, the criterion I just supplied as predictions for the CM would seem to falsify the EM too. How does the EM account for the sudden appearance of species in the geological record as opposed to a gradual unfolding? And wasn’t this precisely Darwin’s criteria for falsifiability? Wasn’t it he who stated that if his theory was true the geological record should demonstrate a gradual transitional state rather than the sudden appearance of well-defined species?

Also, what about my other prediction? According to the EM, a study of Zoology should yield a continuous spectrum of intermediate species? You know who asked that? Darwin! And if you think Darwin’s kushya is no longer a kushya, here’s a quote from a well-known evolutionist asking the same kushya.

"Although an almost incomprehensible number of species inhabit Earth today, they do not form a continuous spectrum of barely distinguishable intermediates. Instead, nearly all species can be recognized as belonging to a relatively limited number of clearly distinct major groups, with very few illustrating intermediate structures or ways of life. (Robert L. Carroll, Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution, Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 9)"

So to sum up, a study of life on earth falsifies Evolution on three fronts.

1) The lack of a family tree

2) The lack of transitional forms in the geological record

3) Species fitting into clearly distinct major groups rather than forming a continuous spectrum of intermediate forms.

3. What experiments have been done/ are being done to test the validity of your model?

Answer: The CM is not in the business of performing experiments to test its validity. As I mentioned in the introduction, CM’s point of departure is the Bible. However, as it happens, evolutionists have conducted a variety of experiments in this field with the results all pointing to a CM model. Let’s take one example for now.

Evolutionary researchers have been mutating fruit flies for over sixty years. Fruit flies reproduce very rapidly producing a new generation every eleven days which yields a couple thousand generations of fruit flies! They tried everything. They subjected these flies to heat and to cold. They subjected them to light and dark. They even subjected them to artificial treatments such as chemicals and radiation! Yet not once have they been able to produce a beneficial mutation! All the mutations were either trivial or harmful.

So there’s your lab experimentation for the CM and there are the results. They support the model.

Question to Rabbi Slifkin: Why is it that the experiments conducted by scientists to support an evolutionary model consistently fail?

4. Rambam, Sefer HaChinnuch and Malbim state that no types of animals ever become extinct. Do you agree with this - does your model include extinction, and what are the causes?

Answer: I don’t see the relevancy of this question to our topic. Nonetheless, I will respond. First of all, it depends what the Rambam et al mean, don’t you think? If by "types" they mean something like, say, vertebrates and invertebrates, then yes, I could accept what they are saying without any reservation. Why not?

As far as the CM including extinction, yes, of course it does! Why shouldn’t it? We see extinction happening right now as we speak. It is estimated that approximately 800 species went into extinction just in the past 500 years. That’s a rate of almost two species a year.

As far as causes for extinction, there are many. Some are environmental such as habitat degradation, some by natural selection such as predation and competition for available resources, some relate to natural phenomena like disease, and some relate to anthropogenic causes such as hunting and deforestation.

Like I said, I don’t see what any of this has to do with our topic but I responded honestly as a masiach lefi tumo.

Question to Rabbi Slifkin: I’m just curious. How do you view extinction within the parmeters of the EM? In what way is this common occurrence in any way related to either supporting or disproving either one of the models in question?

5. From when to when did Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs, respectively, live?

Answer: They lived contemporaneously from either day five or day six of Creation. See here for a discussion on this topic. Their date of extinction is currently unknown.

Question for Rabbi Slifkin: Every textbook of evolution asserts that reptiles evolved from amphibians somewhere in the Triassic period. There are innumerable problems with this but here’s a big one. One of the major distinguishing features between them is the reptilian amniotic egg which supposedly came about gradually as a result of a successive accumulation of small changes. But the amniotic egg of the reptile is entirely different than that of an amphibian. Amphibians lay their eggs in water. They are jelly-like and possess a transparent and permeable membrane, an ideal structure for development in water. Reptiles, on the other hand, lay their eggs on land and are meant to survive there, not in the water. The hard shell of the reptile egg (amniotic), allows air in, but is impermeable to water. In this way, the water needed by the developing animal is kept inside the egg. If amphibian eggs were laid on land, they would immediately dehydrate thus killing the embryo. Therefore if dinosaurs evolved from amphibians, the amphibian egg must have changed into an amniotic one within the lifespan of a single generation. How could such a process have occurred?

6. Did the original process of creation, via which dirt transformed into mammals, function according to some sort of scientific laws, or was it entirely supernatural? Does it still continue after the end of the six days - in other words, can dirt still transform into mammals? If yes, is the much smaller process of one type of mammal turning into another type of mammal also possible - and if not, why not?

Answer: The original process of Creation was entirely meta-natural. As far as whether it continues after the six days, the answer is no. However, the Ramban in his commentary regarding the plague of lice seems to maintain that sometimes Hashem might re-activate the Creation process, under rare and extreme circumstances. But as far as I know this happened only once, during Yetzias Mitzrayim.

Can dirt still transform into mammals? I’ve never seen such a thing. In the olden days they used to think that if you put some dirt and rags into a box, eventually mice will appear. Today we know that from a scientific standpoint this is nonsense. There is nothing in the CM which maintains the belief in the post-Creation process of dirt to mammals.

Question to Rabbi Slifkin: The story of Creation is the Torah does discuss miraculous events such as dirt to mammals and yet you reject this because evolutionists claim that "common ancestry" is the most plausible scenario for the unfolding of the universe. So what about the flood? Or better yet, what about the miracles of mitzrayim? Science today claims that spontaneous generation is not only implausible, it’s impossible. Do you believe in the miracles of yetziyas mitzrayim? And if so, what principled distinction can you make between this belief and your disbelief of the miracles of maaseh bereishis?

7. (The precise formulation of the following question depends very much on the exact nature of Dr. Betech's mysterious approach.) Various mineral companies, oil companies, etc., find geologists to be essential. How are they at all effective, if the processes by which various substances and layers in the earth appear are not at all those which are described by geology?

Answer: With all due respect, this is a silly question. The field of geology is vast and cuts across many disciplines. Evolution is only one of them and the most useless one at that. The geologists employed by chemical and mineral companies could care less about the evolutionary models of evolution. Commercial geology is an entirely different field. Geotechnical engineering uses principles of soil mechanics and rock mechanics to investigate subsurface conditions and materials; determine the relevant physical/mechanical and chemical properties of these materials; evaluate stability of natural slopes and man-made soil deposits; assess risks posed by site conditions; design earthworks and structure foundations; and monitor site conditions, earthwork and foundation construction (Wikipedia). Oil and Mineral companies use geologists for mineral and hydrocarbon exploration. None of this has anything to do with evolution.

Question for Rabbi Slifkin: If , according to the EM, the universe unfolded via evolutionary possesses as depicted in the stratigraphic column, from Cambrian and Ordovician right up through the Permian and Triassic, and ending in the Tretiary and Quaternary, then why is it that these roughly ten layers, representing the past 550-575 million years of biological evolution, do not appear in the proper order practically anywhere on planet earth? Even if the Law of Superpostion made any sense, which it doesn’t, how can it possibly be responsible for the strata of the entire surface of the earth being in the "wrong" order?

8. Why are all living marsupials (with the exception of possums) found in Australia, and no placental mammals are found there apart from bats?

Answer: I don’t know. But this type of phenomenon is not unique. There are many habitats around the world which possess certain indigenous life-forms. Presumably these habitats are more conducive to the survival of these life-forms. Actually, there have been many fossil finds of marsupials in China and apparently they migrated to Australia from there. After the mabul, the Torah indicates that life "spread out". I suppose Marsupials spread to Australia (although I have no idea how they managed to get there). By the way, there are several species of marsupials outside of Australia too, not just opossums.

Question for Rabbi Slifkin: The North American wolf and the Tasmanian wolf have an almost identical skeletal structure making them perfectly homologous. Yet the former belongs to the placental class whilst the latter to the marsupials. This, according to Evolutionists, means that these two different species have completely separate evolutionary histories. Hmm… an evolutionary conundrum. How do you explain this?

9. Why do animals fit into a nested hierarchal system of classification, rather than there being all kinds of chimeras - e.g. whales are fully mammals, and have no homologous analogies with fish? This is especially intriguing in light of the fact that this hierarchy is different from the classification system in the Torah - e.g., bats are mammals, not birds.

Answer: Why do animals fit into a nested hierarchal system of classification, rather than there being all kinds of chimeras? Simple. Because a nested hierarchy is the most logical way for anyone to design anything! It fits perfectly with the Torah’s description.

Question to Rabi Slifkin: Why do animals fit into a nested hierarchal system of classification, rather than there being all kinds of chimeras? After all, if all species descended from other species gradually, the species today should represent a conglomeration of intermediate species not easily able to be classified. I already quoted this to you above. Here it is again from Robert Carroll.

"Although an almost incomprehensible number of species inhabit Earth today, they do not form a continuous spectrum of barely distinguishable intermediates. Instead, nearly all species can be recognized as belonging to a relatively limited number of clearly distinct major groups, with very few illustrating intermediate structures or ways of life. (Robert L. Carroll, Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution, Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 9)"

This includes any form of classification, including a nested one. The species should simply eschew any formal attempt at classification. I know Niles Eldridge claims that a Nested Hierarchy is proof positive of common ancestry. Perhaps you could explain precisely how he envisions such a thing.

10. How do you account for the fact that the overwhelming majority of scientists - including many who believe in the Torah - rejected your model? In fact, the first scientists to reject the young-earth model of creation were themselves devout Christians. Why is it that today only those who believe in the Torah/ Bible - and not even all of them - subscribe to it?

Answer: There is nothing to account for. The CM is concerned with one thing: evidence. If there is no evidence for evolution, then adherents of the CM could care less about the consensus of scientific opinion. Everyone knows that scientists are biased and need to come up with a material explanation for things. They don’t even give Intelligent Design a fighting chance in the first place. You know who said this? You! In your book The Science of Torah, you wrote: (my emphasis)

"Scientists consider evidence for common ancestry to be very strong indeed. Futuyma even rates common ancestry as fact, relative to explanations of evolutionary mechanisms, which he terms theory. Actually, scientists are often being presumptuous when they give such a status to the evidence for common ancestry, as they generally are not giving serious consideration to explanations for it in light of other possibilities (such as Divine creation, panspermia, or some other unknowable process)."

So who cares about scientists if they have no evidence? Just because they are a majority? Because they are a large crowd? Because they are a "global community"? All this is meaningless to the CM.

Question to Rabbi Slifkin: Since apparently one of the reasons you feel obliged to subscribe to the EM is due to the fact that their are an "overwhelming" majority of scientists which reject the CM model, why do you subscribe to your model of theology, i.e. Judaism? After all, the overwhelming consensus amongst theologians today, Christian, Moslem, and others, is that the imperatives of your religeon are false. That's quite an impressive majority, is it not?