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No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. 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. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Challenge Of Creation - Rabbi Slifkin - Part Three

It would be helpful to at least skim The Challenge Of Creation - Rabbi Slifkin - Part One and then Part 2

Part Three-Evolution

Page 253 RS writes the Nazis claimed Evolution as the basis for their evil beliefs, and that has nothing to do with if Evolution is true. Just because some use the Bible as a basis for their evil action has nothing to do with if the Bible is true.

IMHO - Evolution does not directly or indirectly teach us how we ought to behave. (But maybe there are some who claim they can ‘deduce’ or ‘infer’ indirectly from Evolution  how we ought to behave).  However, the Bible does tell us directly how we ought to behave.  If the Bible advocates evil actions and if it is claimed G-d authored the Bible then the advocacy for evil  is a legitimate basis to question the truth of the Bible - this under the assumption G-d has certain commonly accepted attributes.

Page 260 RS - If the laws of nature are such that life will emerge, then this points to the laws having a designer.

I assume RS thinks G-d. I am not sure why the laws of nature can not just be.  Why do we need to add another layer of complexity by invoking G-d ?

See  Proof of God from Origin of Life

Page 270 Previously RS has all but written Genesis is not science, it is not meant to teach accurate history. [In short, Genesis is factually wrong].  RS is opposed to reading Genesis as science , yet on page 270 he begins to find Evolution (meaning science)  in Genesis ! Specifically Gradualism and Transformation.   For example he cites Rabbi Nissin and the Arbarbanel to support ‘transformation’ in Genesis.

In addition, the quotes he provides from those Rabbis all but treat Genesis as actual history.

Page 285 If I understand RS’s book (not just this section) correctly, RS sees evidence of G-d because physical laws point to a law giver, a designer. Also, G-d designed physical laws which were used in creating and operating the world. Maybe even those laws were designed by G-d so that life would arise. But RS can’t quite be a Deist with G-d making the laws and then walking way. Rather, RS also wants a G-d that interferes in the world - maybe (by outright open miracles ? or by)  tweaking things in a way that we don’t notice. Say thru Quantum Theory or Chaos Theory or perhaps some other way.  RS also claims ‘we’ see G-d’s hand in the day to day running of the world notwithstanding the scientific explanation.

For the law giver argument see See Kalam Cosmological Proof of God - Premises and Conclusion repudiated.  For the Chaos and Quantum tweaking see my notes in Part One for  page 72. 

Moreover, I have never seen any evidence of G-d’s involvement in the world. If RS means by this physical laws something like the birth of a baby why must any of that be attributed to G-d ? 

Maybe RS is referring to some historical events that he sees as a hidden or open miracle. There is absolutely no evidence for any open miracle. If RS is referring to hidden miracle they are so well hidden as to be essentially invisible and non existent. See Proof of God from Miracles or Kuzari Argument Part 9

If RS is referring to miracle of Prophecy or miracles involving Israel or Jewish people see Proof of God From Prophecy , Proof of God via Jewish Survival, Jewish Suffering, and the Bible Predictor (Part One) and part two, Proof of God from Israel 

Page 287 RS - Atheists understand that astronomy does not score points against religion.

I think it does. Some examples: It shattered an Earth and man centered universe. It showed the falsehood of  the notion ‘G-d in Heaven’. It taught us that likely no G-d was directly involved in the creation of planet Earth, that no supernatural being or ‘intelligences’ are required for planets to orbit...

Page 289 RS attempts to explain why religious people oppose naturalistic Evolution. One reason he provides that it is hard even for intelligent people to understand that scientific explanation do not rule out G-d’s role.

G-d becomes superfluous once science has an explanation. Evolution operates with no supernatural intervention; with no ultimate goal species.

Page 290 RS - Naturalistic explanation does not paint G-d out of the picture.

The explanations may not disprove the existence of G-d, but they keep limiting his roles.

Page 294 RS - G-d works thru science.

What evidence does RS have for the existence of G-d ? That he works thru science ? Scientific explanations have been painting G-d out of the picture and teaching us Genesis is wrong.  

Page 295 - RS writes it is impossible to determine if something is truly random. RS thinks he is finding a flaw in the blind watchmaker - i.e Evolution. That we really can not prove anything 
is random and that would include Evolution. 

If the data passes all the tests for randomness then for all practical purposes the data is random.  We never ‘truly’ 100%  know anything. One can always invent explanations - witness the cargo cults or the mountains of religious apologetics written. But the main flaw in RS’s flaw is this. If  nature appears to us as random, then the most reasonable conclusion is it is probably random. We have no reason to think otherwise.  

Lets assume  nature appears random,  but it really is not. That would imply G-d is deceiving us.     

RS also seems to argue random environmental changes that may give rise to certain creatures appear to us random because we are ignorant. I assume he would argue a meteorite wiping out a certain animal group may not have been really random, there was a guiding watchmaker. 

We have to ask ourselves does the data support the G-d hypothesis or not. Apparent randomness (even if we can not 100% prove it is truly random) is a strike against the G-d hypothesis, even if RS can come up with all sorts of apologetics. 

Page 297 RS discusses Numbers 26:52-56 where land is to be allotted to the Israelite tribes by a lottery.  But despite the seeming randomness of the process it was just a guise for Divine decision which had already predestined the allotments. 

See this post Who Wrote the Bible Part One where I discussed this very section. 

Page 304 RS - argues since there is complexity present in living creatures we have to invoke a designer to make the laws of nature and the world that would result in the evolution of the creature or make the creature directly.

We seem be back to the arguments of: Design; Fine Tuning; Where did the Laws of Nature Come From; where did complexity come from.

See Proof of God from Design ; Proof of God From Fine Tuning  ; Kalam Cosmological Proof of God - Premises and Conclusion repudiated

Page 307 and footnote 1 - RS cites  Futuyama who wrote: the natural world does not conform to our expectations of what an omnipotent, omniscient and truthful creator would have created. To Creationist who explain but the ways of G-d is a mystery is thus admitting creationism can predict nothing and so cannot be science. RS writes responds: the lack of predictability might disqualify it from being science but it does not disqualify it from being true !

Science is about truth seeking. One of it’s principles is a hypothesis should  be able to make predictions so we can test if the hypotheses is true !  In general, a hypothesis that makes no predictions is a strike against that hypothesis. We are less confident about it’s truth. 

Page 326 - RS injects a spiritual element into the creation of man. Man has a spiritual aspect that animals do not have. This soul differentiates man and animal.  But then on page 327 RS writes  man’s “spiritual/intellectual” nature is the key.  Then he writes man’s spiritual nature not his physical body is the fundamental man quality.

Does RS mean there is actually a non physical soul that exists ?  If so what evidence exists for this. It would also mean some spiritual thing is interacting with physical things. But how ? Also natural laws need to be modified to allow this to happen and would mean our physics, biology, chemistry is wrong. 

Does RS think intelligence is not the result of our physical body’s output ? That our intelligence needs something beyond the physical realm ? An intelligence of the gaps. I would argue that would be unlikely. Scientists are now able to watch us think thru MRI type equipment, suggesting thought process, feelings.... are in our biology.

Some animals are pretty good problem solvers. Do they also have some sort of ‘spiritual/intellectual’ nature. And if not how would RS explain their abilities ? 

Even if man’s intelligence is different in ‘kind’ from animals, it does not mean intelligence was not a product of Evolution. Is this the soul of the gaps argument ? 

See Proof of God from Life; Genesis 2:7

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

Page 329 RS- claims  Ramban (Genesis 2:7 commentary) mentions a notion that man derived from a lower being. 

Ramban never remotely suggests man’s body evolved from any non human animal. Rather G-d formed mans body from clay and made him a mobile being.  G-d also gave a special type of soul to that man. This has nothing to do with the evolution of man from prior hominids and primates or that man's physical body has changed from a prior primate into a modern human.

RS advocates Genesis is not really science, but then he seems to keep trying to find science in Genesis !

See Proof of God from Life; Genesis 2:7

For what Ramban was intending see  The Science of God Schroeder Part 4

Page 331 RS - Man’s unique spiritual component sets him apart from animals. 

In contradiction to this RS on page 332 gives an example  based on Mishna Kelayim 8:5 where apes also posses certain  human like “spiritual” aspects !

Page 338 RS notes that Genesis 2:7 G-d creates man from dust contradicts science. RS proposes it could be a metaphor/allegory/parable. Or maybe it was easy for people to grasp. Or it is an abstraction of some deeper concept of man’s nature.

See See Proof of God from Life; Genesis 2:7

This is how all problems go away if any Torah verse contradicts science. Call them metaphors/allegory/parable. Or say the Torah lied because it was easier for people to grasp.  Is this intellectual honesty ? Nothing in the Torah  means anything.

What problems ? The problems being discussed by RS, but also other 'problems' found in this post: Some Reasons To Reject Orthodox Judaism

But maybe all these ‘problems’ have the simplest solution of all. The Torah was written by people who did not know factual reality. Such a solution is supported by all the data and also because occam's razor.

What religious people fail to grasp that all these ‘problems’ are strikes against the Torah being divine, and strikes against the plausibility of the Orthodox Jewish narrative. This is true even if Orthodox Jews have apologetic answers to the problems. 


Page 346 RS Six days of creation are not historical. It is a conceptual account.

Page 350 RS Genesis is best understood not as a scientific account but rather as theological cosmology.

Those two sentences are the crux of RS's solutions to the challenges of Creation.

Yet the Torah and Oral Tradition indicate Genesis was giving actual history.  For example Genesis 1:28 - G-d blesses man.   Genesis 1:28 - G-d tells them be fruitful and multiply - this is one of mitzvos/precepts/commandments.  Genesis 1:29 - G-d tells man what to eat.

As I complete this non exhaustive review of RS’s book there are several more points to discuss. 

First, RS occasionally resorts to very similar apologetics found in Rambam. The following posts are  relevant to repudiating some of such apologetics.  Cut Off in the Bible,  Statute Forever in the Bible,  Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides 

Second, RS may have written an apologetic for Cosmology and Evolution, but the Noah story may present an even greater challenge  - see The Challenge of Noah .

Third, If the Orthodox Jewish narrative is true why are there so many ‘problems’ with it ? Why do the non Orthodox Jewish solutions to the problems seem more likely; more reasonable;  more consistent with everything we know about science, history, archaeology, ancient near east, language, the evolution of religion, the history of Judaism, the Torah text  etc:  than the Orthodox Jewish solutions ? 

Fourth, the careful reader will notice I have brought attention to some of the inconsistencies, logical or otherwise found  RS's book.

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