Click this link for TOPICAL INDEX OF POSTS

About Me

A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Kuzari Part 5

This post is a continuation of the Kuzari ‘proof/argument of Judaism’  begun here. I would recommend at least skimming the prior four posts. 

Kuzari proponents often ask if there are any parallels to the Sinai story. Are there examples of a group of people claiming that god reveals himself to them ? My prior posts have described  stories having parallels to the Sinai story. I have come across another that would qualify.

In the book Pygmy Kitabu by Jean-Pierre Hallet and Alex Palle 1973, it is documented many customs, laws, myths, philosophies, and stories of the Pygmies of Africa. Hallet had lived with them for many years and thus had first hand experience and knowledge of the Pygmies. 

Page 53 "The Western Pygmy men informed Anthropologist Trilles that the deity dwelled with them during the first ages of man." 

Page 106-107  The Pygmies say “In the beginning,  God lived with men and gave them his commandments.” Some of Pygmy 'laws'  are similar to the 10 commandments.  [Probably to account for the fact that God is  no longer seen among them, they also claim he ascended to heaven.]

Page 111 - “The Pygmies say in ancient times their Lawgiving Father-God-King reigned near Ruwenzori; the mountains of the moon.”   “In this neighborhood, according to the Pygmies they received the deity’s laws and commandments.” [And in the Tenach, Yahweh is associated with certain mountain ranges and God gives the commandments at Mount Sinai. At least the Pygmies know the location of the mountain of God where God provides the laws, something the Jews do not know.]

Page 117 Interestingly, that African area has experienced a major volcano eruption from which dusts, ashes, rocks were spewed up and poisoned life and also killed fish. [This sounds somewhat similar to some of the 10 plagues in Exodus.]

How could such stories gain traction amongst the Pygmies ? 

It may be argued that when the Christian and Muslim invaded their country the Pygmies came in contact with Biblical stories and adopted/adapted them. But that is irrelevant, because using the Kuzari argument the stories should have never gained traction at all. In addition, the book argues it is unlikely the Pygmies learned the stories from the Christians or Muslims.  Regardless if we accept the book’s argument, according to the Kuzari argument we should accept the Pygmy's claim of divine commandments given at the mountain and having dwelled amongst them in the past.

It is known the Ancient Egyptians had contact with the Pygmies and were fond of them (at least for certain periods)  even bringing some to their country. This raises the possibility, that the Pygmy myths were  heard by some Israelites that where in  Egypt or had been trading with Egypt. [Also recall Moshe  marries a Cushite women who also may have come in contact with Pygmy myths.] The book argues for this sort possibility to explain why some Pygmy myths resemble those in the Bible.

I also recommend reading the blog by Kefirah and he has at least one on the Kuzari argument see and the comment section is very informative.

The pygmies are threatened with extinction and humanity is in danger of losing one of it's oldest living branches. Surely the World's powers can and must do much more to help them survive. 

Next up is Kuzari Part 6

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Proof of God from Free Will, Justice, Consciousness, BLANK

Updated Thru 8/12/2015;   9/2/2016

The ‘proofs’ goes something like this.

Type I

Science has not explained a certain phenomena like BLANK.
Religion has an explanation for BLANK, i.e a supernatural entity was involved for BLANK.
Therefore,  since science has no explanation for BLANK, and religion provides ones we may choose, or perhaps should choose religion’s explanation.

Type II

People believe BLANK or desire to believe in BLANK  or have a feeling  BLANK is true.
Atheism or Science cannot demonstrate BLANK exists or that BLANK is supportable or that BLANK is even possible within a materialistic frame.
Religion supports BLANK based on Supernatural involvement.
Therefore , we should accept Religion’s explanation i.e Supernatural involvement.

For Type I BLANK could be origin of life, origin of matter, consciousness etc: etc: 

For Type II BLANK could be free will, morality (i.e. murder is wrong), administration of punishment for criminal action, accountability for ones action, etc: etc: 

Most of these kinds of arguments suffer from the logical fallacy called god of the gaps or an argument from ignorance. In short, we can not plug in supernatural to explain a phenomena. And despite what some religious people claim,  Science (other materialistic academic disciplines) do have some theories supported by known materialistic science for many of the BLANKS.

People’s  desire that BLANK be true is not evidence that BLANK is true. It is just wishful thinking.

People having a feeling that BLANK is true is not evidence that BLANK is true. It is just their feeling. But is a amazing how many people believe in supernatural being(s) based on their feelings. They need to supply objective evidence why BLANK is true.

Here are specific examples of BLANK from an actual Rabbi’s blog site. This Rabbi does not always publish retorts to his blog or my retorts to his comments.  I am not sure why. He desired a response from a specific Atheist (not me) but I will give my response. 

1) As an atheist, you most likely don't believe in free will.

I am not sure the science is all in yet. Maybe there is or maybe there is not.

2) Do you believe that people should be held accountable for their "wrong-doings?"

If a person truly has free will and commits a crime he should be punished. On the other hand if a person does not truly have free will he should be punished because society can not function with lawlessness.  Punishment can act as a deterrent  to lawlessness in the same way a chimp can be encouraged to behave in a certain way by using reward or punishment. Jailing or execution will remove the criminal from society allowing society to function better. Also see Proof of God from Morality.

3) Do you believe in concepts like justice and morality which have no scientific or material basis?

Who says justice and morality have no scientific or material basis ? See Proof of God from Morality  Justice and Morality do not demand Supernatural beings, nor is it evident they would be helpful for ethical decisions.  Also see 2)

4) What is the origin of matter, life and consciousness?  

The science is not all in yet.

See these posts for the first two. 

Proof of God from Origin of Life

Proof of God from Big Bang 

Kalam Cosmological Proof of God - Repudiated by Theology

Kalam Cosmological Proof of God - Premises and Conclusion repudiated

5) Would our lack of explanatory ability in these matters cause you to suspend your judgement as to whether or not a creative intelligence could have brought them about?

No. This called an argument from ignorance or God of the Gaps - a logical fallacy. You can not plug lack of knowledge with supernatural. 2000 years ago should our lack of explanatory ability for lightning cause us to suspend our judgement as to whether or not Zeus brought it about ? No. Do we know he exists ? What do we know about him ? How do we know it ? Positing Zeus does not help us understand lightning.  Zeus would be a failed hypothesis.

{ETA 9/2/2016 We have some well tested scientific theories that we are fairly certain are correct in their respective domains of application. Of course science has some gaps - one big one is well the Big Bang - what I am getting at is how gravity and quantum mechanics reconcile.  If somebody wants to posit some supernatural phenomena they have to explain how that fits in with our scientific theories. How the supernatural phenomena  interacts with known forces and particles. Why they think science can not or will not be able to explain the phenomena.}

6) If  not, are you accepting your atheism on the basis of faith?

No. You need to supply valid evidence for supernatural beings. Since there is none we reject the hypothesis.  The default position is atheist/agnostic. Said another way the God Hypothesis is a failed one from a scientific or philosophical frame. 

7) If you believe that life (and as an extension, thought) are the results of blind and impersonal forces, how do you know that your mental faculties are reliable?
Because they work, for the most part. We build planes that can fly. Also, evolution tends to result in solutions that are reliable more or less. This includes our mental conceptions tend match reality - be reliable, at least as far what is needed to survive and then some. Imagine there were prehistoric hominid  who could not recognize a dangerous animal and others who could. Those with the ability to recognize would survive. The others with unreliable mental conceptions perished.

8) Do you have confidence that what your brain tells you (whoever "you" actually is) is coherent?

see 7)

9) Are any ideas superior to any others?

Yes. Those ideas consistent with logic, reason, science and evidence are superior. Those ideas that match reality ( as best we can describe it) are superior. For some issues - ‘superior’ needs to be defined.

10) Given that, materially speaking, ideas are nothing more than haphazard firing of neurons, and that neurons have no actual worth or meaning, how could an idea be said to have any actual value?

See 7) and 3)

11) As such, should we refrain from all critique of ideas that we subjectively find displeasing?  

Depends on the idea. Examples:  In an academic environment, any Idea need to be supported. Ideas that may lead to lawlessness or harm should be subject to critique. And there are Ideas in many religions that can lead to harm and thus be critiqued. 


Some religious people engage in epistemological questions such as how do you know this or that as if to rationalize that religious beliefs are just as valid as scientific or academic findings. 

If our mental faculties are not reliable then how do you know any religion is valid ? Thus religious people who claim our mental faculties are not reliable should at least be skeptics-agnostics. Also, if our mental facilities are not 100% reliable then according to religious people God designed an imperfect being, hardly worthy of a perfect God. And you can not posit supernatural just because you would like our mental faculties to be reliable - this would be  wishful thinking.  Nor can you claim our mental faculties are reliable and they are reliable because supernatural made it so- See 5), 7 ).

But suppose religious people claim human mental faculties are reliable. Then since atheists and agnostics do not find arguments  for supernatural convincing, religious people should accept atheism and agnosticism are valid viewpoints since they are produced by reliable mental faculties.

Scientific hypothesis are not accepted because certain scientists have accepted it.  Rather numerous different scientist have examined the hypothesis over long periods of time and have applied the scientific method to the hypothesis and thus there is a combined sort of mental facility involved which is superior to having just a few scientists opine. 

[ETA 8/12/2015 The Rabbi responded to my blog post and I need to add to and clarify my post. 

Rabbi  says “I think that it's false that punishment has any effect in the absence of free will”

Response: Punishment  is a way to control behavior the same way it would work on a chimp, dog, dolphin etc: and it works regardless if there is free will or not. In any event, if you claim punishment only works if there is free will, then do you think those sort of animals have free will ?

Rabbi says "The punishers have as little ability to not punish as the wrong-doer does to not do wrong. “

Response: There is not one punisher but a multitude called Society at Large. As a group depending on a multitude of factors Society has decided to punish.  I am not sure we can discuss free will of an entire society. I don't see the relevance of 'ability' or 'free will' regarding the issue.

Rabbi says: “It's all a futile charade and has about as much meaning as covalent bonding. Again, this is not offered as a proof of God as much as a demonstration of atheistic incoherence.”

Response: See Proof of God from Morality  . But let us say the Rabbi is correct - everything has as much meaning as covalent bonds. Why is that incoherence ? It is just how things are. Maybe the Universe and everything in it has no meaning at all. It is humans that give meaning to their lives. Meaning need not come from Supernatural beings. I do admit religion  can give life meaning for some people and that is one reason they persist see

Rabbi Says: “That the "God Hypothesis" has failed [this was my claim] is an entirely subjective viewpoint and one that, in my opinion, is largely based on emotionality and not due to a lack of valid arguments for theism.”

Response: My entire blog explores Proofs of God and repudiates them based on science, logic, reason - never emotions. As a scientific hypothesis, Supernatural beings are not supportable. No philosophical proofs for Supernatural survives close scrutiny.