Severe Weather Alert: Dr. Jerry Coyne – Militant Atheistic Biologist – Is Blowing Very Hot Air In Chicago!

December 14, 2011 6:01 pm 341 comments

Dr. Jerry Coyne, biologist at the University of Chicago.

Of all the new age, “militant” atheists with whom I am familiar, only P.Z. Myers seems able to out-perform Dr. Jerry Coyne, of the University of Chicago, in sheer crudeness, abrasiveness, and obnoxiousness. That is not to say that Dr. Coyne is not a hard worker. Achieving silver medal status next to P.Z. Myer’s gold is no small achievement; one does not scale such heights by coasting or resting on one’s laurels! In fact, judging by the time and energy Coyne seems to devote to his blog, Why Evolution is True, one wonders if his students could possibly be getting anything other than sloppy-seconds.

Recently, Jerry (yes, we’re on a first name basis) lashed out (read: threw a temper tantrum) at a rather brilliant academic with whom I am friendly: Dr. David Berlinski, a mathematician, science and math writer, Senior Fellow of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, self-proclaimed agnostic, and a well known critic of Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. I am not qualified to pass judgment on the substance of their disagreement, which revolves around the ability or inability of evolutionary theory to account for the organized complexity of life on our planet. However, the tone and maturity level of Dr. Coyne’s screed is worth noting. Here is a sampling of what he had to say about Berlinski:

“Berlinski makes an ass of himself”

“so ignorant”

“full of lies”

“blatant misrepresentations”

“pompous and awkward”

“Do not write like this!”

“[Berlinski] apes Gould’s writing style”

“the idiots at the Discovery Institute”

“Discovery Institute…reserved for only the highest Poo-Bahs of Ignorance”

“the height of stupidity”

“intellectual dishonesty”

“he’s a liar”
“[he’s] lying again”

“pompous lucubrations”

“morons like [Berlinski]”

“deliberately lies”

“[Berlinski wants] to keep them in a state of ignorance”

While Coyne’s inability to control his adolescent impulses to crudely insult his opponent – so much so that it leaves us wondering if he simply forgot to take his medication – does not necessarily invalidate his actual argument, it definitely raises some red flags. He further undermines his own credibility by describing Berlinski’s prose as awkward. Anyone who has read Berlinski’s books or articles – whether you agree with him or not – knows that his writing is anything but awkward. Excuse me Jerry, but if Berlinski’s prose is awkward, then yours could only be described as quadriplegic. On the other hand, if Berlinski’s writing is the most exquisite bottle of French Bordeaux wine, yours is a watered-down quart bottle of Ripple. I’m sure an august institution like the University of Chicago has some wonderful creative writing courses…Just do it, Jerry.

Coyne also bizarrely characterizes Berlinski as a “creationist,” and a “defender” of Intelligent Design theory. In fact, he is neither. The notion that Berlinski is a “creationist” is nothing short of laughable and while “sympathetic” to ID, he is by no means an advocate of the theory, much to the chagrin of his colleagues at the Discovery Institute.

Dr. David Berlinski, a true freethinker and the object of Jerry Coyne's scorn.

Most revealing of all is Coyne’s confession that he has “trouble believing” that Berlinski is really an agnostic. I find this intriguing. Why is it difficult for Coyne to believe such a thing? As far as I’m concerned, the answer is obvious. Dr. Jerry Coyne is a fanatic. A fanatic is someone who is so emotionally and psychologically bound up with their beliefs, that they are incapable of considering another point of view. The sense of reality and emotional stability of the fanatic depend entirely on protecting their beliefs from any type of serious questioning or intellectual attack. Coyne is a fanatical atheist and a fanatical Darwinist. From Coyne’s psychological perspective, it is impossible for there to be flaws in evolutionary theory. It is impossible for any rational person to have doubts about evolutionary theory. The only possible reason for anyone to question Darwinian Evolution would be in order to promote their religious agenda. It’s clear then, that few things could be more threatening than a brilliant agnostic (like Berlinski) raising doubts about Coyne’s dearly held worldview. After all, absent the motivation of a religious agenda, perhaps the reason Berlinski claims there are holes in the theory is because there are holes in the theory. That is a little to much for Dr. Coyne to handle, hence the hysterical pushback.

We can at least be thankful that Dr. Coyne did not bring up the issue of Berlinski’s Jewishness as he did with me. In early March of 2011, I incurred the “wrath of Jerry” by inspiring Rabbi Adam Jacobs, a columnist on the Algemeiner and Huffington Post, to write an article entitled “A Reasonable Argument for God’s Existence.” The article dealt exclusively with the issue of Origin of Life, a subject which covers about 1/3 of my book, Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. Dr. Coyne, who describes himself as a “cultural Jew,” expresses his Jewish identity by posting pictures of triple-decker pastrami sandwiches on his blogsite.

In his attack on Rabbi Jacobs and me, he attached great significance to the fact that we were Jewish. He wrote that he was “deeply saddened” that arguments like this “come from Jews,” and concluded by declaring, “Rabbi Jacobs makes me ashamed to be a cultural Jew.”

In light of the fact that there are far more gentiles who enjoy pastrami sandwiches than there are Jews in the entire world, it’s hard to understand what exactly is so “Jewish” about deli-sandwiches. In fact, it’s hard to understand why Jerry Coyne considers himself Jewish at all. I’m ashamed that he trivializes the concept of Jewish identity by reducing it to something as silly and pathetic as a pastrami sandwich. I’m also ashamed that Coyne fanatically promotes life-negating ideologies like atheism and Darwinism – which teach us that a human being is nothing more than an intelligent cockroach, and no more significant either – when the entire meaning of Jewish existence was to teach the world that every human being is created in the image of God, bestowing a nearly infinite preciousness and significance upon human life.

The argument that I put forth in my book, which Rabbi Jacobs also presented in his Huffington Post column, was that the simple reason why Origin of Life researchers are baffled in their attempts to find a naturalistic origin of life – as Noble Laureate Dr. Jack Szostak put it, “It is virtually impossible to imagine how a cell’s machines…could have formed spontaneously from non-living matter,” is because it is impossible for a cell’s machines to have formed spontaneously from non-living matter. The notion that the functional complexity of a bacterium could be the result of an unguided process is as absurd as asserting that the sculptures on Mt. Rushmore were the result of an unguided, naturalistic process. Here is Dr. Coyne’s “killer response”:

“Nope, we don’t yet understand how life originated on Earth, but we have good leads, and abiogenesis is a thriving field.  And we may never understand how life originated on Earth, because the traces of early life have vanished…I’m pretty confident that within, say, 50 years we’ll be able to create life in a laboratory under the conditions of primitive Earth, but that, too, won’t tell us exactly how it did happen—only that it could.

The Talmudic Sages declare that “someone who wants to lie makes sure that his witnesses and evidence are far away.” In other words, a skilled fabricator always is careful to tell a story that can never be checked out objectively or falsified…sort of like Dr. Jerry Coyne telling us that while today he has zero evidence that life could come from non-life through an unguided process, not to worry: 50 years in the future we’ll have all the evidence we need. I am certain that God the Creator exists while David Berlinski is not certain at all. But on one thing we are both certain: The impotence and vacuousness of Dr. Coyne’s writing and reasoning speak for themselves

If you wish to be notified when Rabbi Averick’s new columns appear, send an email to moe.david@hotmail.com and simply write the word Subscribe in the subject bar.  Rabbi Moshe Averick is an orthodox rabbi and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is available on Amazon.com and Kindle. Rabbi Averick can be reached via his website. .

341 Comments

  • Big Brown Polynesian

    So, based on what we as humans can touch, see, and smell with our physical human anatomy is what the NON-god people fall back on? Wow, now that is truly an existential leap of faith! Mathematics, peer reviews, chemical composition, etc. comprise the absolute truth? Hum! Truth was it first and then reality? Or reality was it first and then truth? Conundrum’s they are fun!

    Can I see the oxygen that I breath moment to moment? Do I need to know the exact amount of molecular composition in the air from which my lungs need to infuse my bodies bloodstream with life giving oxygen? Must I wait for a Peer Review, and their analysis before I exhale and then draw another breath?

    I remember back to the days of my boyhood when playing football or the occasional run-in with a bully experiencing getting the “Air Knocked out of me” it was a horrifying experience! I,in the moment unable to inhale did not care that I could not SEE oxygen or whether or not a scientist discovered the fact that I now had no air in my lungs!
    It is always amazing to me how attractive the allure arrogance is to us earthlings.

  • Nature appears designed, so if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck – maybe it IS a duck. Natural selection might very well have limits. For an arthropod with complex brain & nervous system, and compound eyes to have been found in the Cambrian era is very surprising! The brain is the most complex thing in the known universe, yet it evolved during the Cambrian era – one of such complexity? Abiogenesis is still in hypothesis stage for over a century, and now it is agreed among origin of life researchers that life is too complex to have come about by chance — so to eliminate Intelligent Design, without having an alternative to explain the origin of life’s complexity at the molecular level and above, is a logical fallacy. Even R. Dawkins is hoping to find the elusive and unknown Law of Chemistry which got life going. But until it is discovered, why dismiss any hypothesis? There is evidence of Design – it is not an illusion. Let’s not try to explain it away just because it contradicts one aspect of evolutionary theory. Why is Intelligent Design the one rock that Darwinists will not look under?

  • Freeman Dyson wrote: “There is an enormous gap between the simplest living cell and the most complicated naturally occurring mixture of nonliving chemicals. We have no idea when and how and where this gap was crossed.” (A Many Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe, Freeman J. Dyson, Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2010, p. 104)

    Moshe Averick offered this as a response: “The obvious answer is that the gap was never crossed by some unguided process, but that life was created/designed by some super-intelligent being.

    The contrast between Dyson’s realistic humility, on the one hand, and Averick’s preposterously conceited arm-waving about a magical “super-intelligent being,” on the other hand, is stark.

    Practically speaking, Dyson admits that he doesn’t know how the gap was crossed, and Averick claims that he does know. The problem with Averick’s nonsensical claim is that he hasn’t got a clue what he is talking about. Averick claims that the gap was crossed by “God,” yet he has no coherent, explicable idea about Who, What, or Where this alleged “God” is — and has not the slightest hint of an idea about how He performed that crossing. Dyson doesn’t know, and admits it. Averick doesn’t know, yet keeping proclaiming that he does. Dyson has knowledge, science, and humility; Averick has faith, blather, and bluster.

  • Hi,

    If we do not know, yet, how first life appeared on earth? Then it does not mean that it has been created! You are absolutely right. (It is the argument by the peoplpe with low understanding )

    If you see a car and do not know the source of its orgine then it does not mean it has been manufactured by somebody! Absurd. (It is the argument by genius people……Right)

    • Kevin O'Neill

      Life on Earth and a car are also different issues: the first has evident self propagating (and arguably self modifying) ‘behaviour’ the second is inert (once it has run out of petrol) and given a hundred years or so will probably not even leave a ‘fossil’, just an iron stain. Humans are also self modifying in the sense that they have a complex culture which has moved natural selection in a particular direction.
      It is not a matter of stupid or genius people, just finding mechanisms which are functional and convincing. Some are not really interested in mechanisms but in justifying what they want to believe.

  • Kevin O'Neill

    It is apparent that Moshe’s argument is based on circular logic: IF we assume that the bacterium could not have originated by a naturalistic process then it follows that a ‘supernatural’ process (the creator?) must have done it.

    It is obvious that the whole ‘logic’ of the argument hinges on the first undemonstrable premise (the uppercase IF). Personally I find it perfectly ‘plausible’ that bacteria evolved from simple molecules evolving to be more and more complex, so the argument above does not for me pass beyond even the first phrase.
    It is the usual blathering, incoherent and UNSCIENTIFIC logic that the religious have always used. This type of investment made by the religious is not to do with philosophical truth but it is a battle for reinforcing their own preformed (fantasy) ideas which either give themselves a comfortable world view or worse a scheme used to manipulate others.
    I would define a Rabbi (or any other type of cleric) as a militant theist, in so far as he has assumed also a social role and identity based on certain basic philosophical beliefs and his own ‘sureties’ are dependent upon the defence of those views. Religious people by definition are not interested in ‘science’ since their essential requirement is reinforcement of self defined, unprovable hypotheses (faith). Note that I do not use the word theory, which in my view may be applied to evolution which has significant body of proof, but may not to Creationism which has no significant body of scientific proof (nor can it ever have, due to its very nature as ‘supernatural’ and therefore intrinsically unscientific) and will remain always a philosophical hypothesis and hence not a theory in any scientific sense).

    I would defend Coyne and Hitchens in their so-called militancy in that they are facing an extremely entrenched defence against scientific reason: the absurd attitude of Creationists wanting to insert their ‘theory’ into the scientific curriculum. Creationism is ‘acceptable’ for me in the Philosophy or in comparative religion class, but to attempt to pass it off as ‘scientific’ would render me ‘militant’ too.

    The whole debate between the clerical and the scientific (including this blog) is fundamentally futile, since there is no common logic possible(non-overlapping magisteria). The ‘militant’ religious have too much investment in mind control to seriously challenge their own tenets. Religion is ALWAYS socio-political at base. If approached from an anthropological standpoint I think better conclusions may be drawn to understand the function and significance across ALL religion. That scientific truth is to be a casualty is a mere politico-philosophical irrelevance. Religion serves to provide coherence of behaviour between members of the ‘tribe’ and as such increases the survival prospect of its adherents. That the tenets are ‘true’ is irrelevant, the only requirement being ‘belief’ resulting in conformity of behaviour. Religion is a meme.

  • I don’t see how anyone can respect you as a writer, Moshe. You pulled phrases out of Coyne’s piece, lined them up like so and accused him of having a “temper tantrum.” Yet, when you read the paper, he is much more dignified and honest than you are. If creationists are so convinced and secure in your position, why do you guys have to lie, cheat and steal your way through the discourse? I suspect it’s because you are aware that honesty and empiricism shred your paradigm to tatters, and you have no original science to back up your assertions.

    Creationists don’t do science. They don’t do experiments. They rely on misrepresenting the work of actual scientists. Why the dependency on science to attempt rationalising your position, if science is so inherently flawed (at least, when you find it disagrees with your positions)?

    Terri-Lynn McCormick was absolutely right about you.

  • “If you discover a plausible, empirically demonstrable, testable, and falsifiable, naturalistic process that explains how life could come from non-life, my theory is falsified.”

    First, you don’t have a theory, you have an assertion. A theory explains how the data correlate and fit together, while ID explains nothing about biology as integrated phenomena.

    Second, how would finding a “naturalistic process” that explains how life *could* come from non-life show that it did, especially if some God-Designer also were in existence? Maybe the “naturalistic process” could do it, but why wouldn’t the God-Designer? It couldn’t create life?

    That’s the problem with ID, it never actually looks for evidence that life was designed. IDists know better than to do so, because life doesn’t betray design, it reveals an absolutely slavish derivation from its ancestors in more familiar metazoa, and that plus horizontal derivation in prokaryotes. Indeed, I’ve asked IDists like Paul Nelson why known mechanisms of horizontal transfer appear to be evident in the “macroevolutionary” record of prokaryotes, while eukaryotic (metazoa and protozoa, in fact) “macroevolution” appears to have the patterns predicted without these horizontal transfers (except in very early evolution, that is). Silence…because known evolutionary processes explain the different “macroevolutionary patterns,” while ID explains nothing.

    What, this doesn’t have anything to do with the origin of life? Actually, as IDists distort such matters, it does, because much that IDists point to as phenomena that abiogenesis would have to explain is indeed evolutionary (Stephen Meyer generally used eukaryotic DNA mechanisms as examples in his book, which appear to have evolved from simpler forms more akin to those found in today’s prokaryotes, which in turn are at least believed to have evolved from much simpler systems), not a matter of the origin of life. Also, since the familiar aspects of design, such as creative leaps, rationality, and reuse of design across non-horizontal transferring organisms, aren’t found in life at any level, there simply is no evidence of a designer.

    You’d need to have some evidence for a designer at some stage in order to figure in any odds of a designer acting in the world. You can neither rule out such a designer by showing the adequacy of “natural processes,” nor rule it in by showing the inadequacy of “natural processes.” Any “design idea” has to stand upon the evidence, not on a false dilemma.

    Finally, on just abiogenesis, while it may indeed not be unlikely at all (who knows?), it’s worth noting that even the very low finite probabilities granted by IDists are infinitely higher than the absence of any evident probabilities at all that God did it. For, simply introducing a fiction does nothing to create any probability that it exists.

    • “You’d need to have some evidence for a designer at some stage in order to figure in any odds of a designer acting in the world.”

      In some contexts, that is true. But the “IDOL” theory is certainly false because it is self-contradictory. That is, there cannot have been an “Intelligent Designer Of Life” because intelligence is an attribute of (some) living entities. Intelligence came after life began, not somehow miraculously before.

      So you cannot have evidence for something that is impossible.

    • “First, you don’t have a theory, you have an assertion. A theory explains how the data correlate and fit together, while ID explains nothing about biology as integrated phenomena.”

      That is an excellent point, Glen.

      The fantasy of “Creation, by God!” has absolutely no explanatory power whatsoever. The question for Mosehe is: “What part of not-of-this-world don’t you understand?”

  • Moshe Averick wrote that “There are certain levels of functional complexity … beyond which the human mind simply refuses to accept [that something] could have resulted from an unguided process.

    That is not true.

    The Rabbi then followed that with this sentence: “ There are no examples that contradict this universal observation.

    And that is manifestly false.

    Two false assertions do not make a truth.

    In fact, there are plenty of people who have no trouble understanding that life came first, and intelligence evolved later.

  • Moshe Averick makes the specious claim “that without God there is no morality at all.” He’s very wrong about that, as are many other people who also cling to the same erroneous belief.

    For one thing, God is a myth, a fantasy, a story, not an actuality. For another thing, morality is a code of values to guide our actions in real life — so it is reality we need to refer to when making choices, including naturally MORAL choices. Trying to tie moral choices to something not-of-this-world is a recipe for moral confusion, illusion, and failure.

  • “The notion that something as functionally complex as a bacterium and its genetic machinery could emerge through a naturalistic, unguided process is so absurd that it can be rejected out of hand.”

    I never understood how these appeals to personal incredulity actually work. Does it get more true the more times you say it, or the louder you say it?

    Also, I am unclear on the appeal to ignorance that you use to claim a supernatual creator. I think the logical form for this is, “I don’t know… so… God.”

    Again, I am unfamiliar with the rules for determining the veracity of a claim that is supported only by a lack of evidence. Is it more true if lots of people are ignorant of evidence one way or another, or is it sufficient for just the claimant to be ignorant of evidence one way or another?

    • Dudley,

      There are certain levels of functional complexity (a bicycle, cellphone, etc) and certain levels of specified information (the poem “Charge of the Light Brigade”, computer code, etc) beyond which the human mind simply refuses to accept could have resulted from an unguided process. There are no examples that contradict this universal observation. Darwinian Evolution is not an exception to this rule, because Darwinian Evolution cannot occur unless the astoundingly complex machinery of life, including the nanomachinery of the simplest bacterium and its digitally encoded genetic information-storage, retrieval, and translation systems, including the ability to self=-replicate are in place.

      You are right. To propose, with no evidence, that such machinery could emerge through an undirected process strains my credulity (and many others also) well beyond the breaking point. We make many rational, reasoned decisions based on incredulity. The entire principle of criminal law, presenting evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, is based on this principle.

      It is not an argument from ignorance. We are not ignorant at all regarding the source of functional complexity and specified information. It is 100% of the time the result of intelligent agency. If you know of an exception please let me know. Crystals are not functionally complex, neither are snowflakes. They may be complex, they may be ordered, but they lack functional complexity and the contain little or no specified information.

      • Your “IDOL” argument seems to run thusly: Bicycles are made by people, therefore people were made by God (or, at least, that the first life was made by God which resulted in the evolution of people).

        But you miss the most basic point: people and bicycles are real, while your proposed “Intelligent Designer of Life” God is not real (i.e., doesn’t exist in the real world — is “outside the physical universe” as you put it). In short, your “IDOL” is a fantasy about the beginning of life, not an explanation (or even a theory about a possible explanation).

        You keep throwing out the notion that God is “outside the physical universe” as if not being in the universe were somehow miraculously not actually impossible. While you may prefer fantasy to reality, in real life, fantasy does not trump or replace reality.

      • I can remember when the symmetry and uniqueness of snow crystals was seriously offered as proof of the existence of God. That gap has closed, it seems.

        Before that, how life works (the term “biochemistry” dates from the late 19th century – “life force”, anyone?), the origin of species, lightning, earthquakes, rain, etc. etc.

        “If you know of an exception please let me know.” is, precisely, the argument from ignorance.

  • “I am certain that God the Creator exists …”

    Why?

    There is no factual, reasonable basis for thinking that “God the Creator” exists, so what is the source of your decision to be “certain”?

    There are only two possibilities: 1) it’s a naturalistic understanding, or 2) it’s blind faith. Since you have defined your “IDOL” as being “outside the physical universe,” then blind faith is the option you’ve chosen. So how do you imagine that gets you anywhere (cognitively or morally)?

  • A Rabbi said while complaining about crudeness:

    “In fact, judging by the time and energy Coyne seems to devote to his blog, Why Evolution is True, one wonders if his students could possibly be getting anything other than sloppy-seconds.”

    Really?

    • chuck

      Shortly another article will be coming our where I extend my hand in peace to Dr. Coyne. As usual, interested to hear your reaction

  • Severe Weather Alert: Rabbi Moshe Averick – Militant Theistic Blogger – Is Blowing Very Hot Air In Chicago! Claims Nature Not Enough!!

    • Ladies and Gentlemen,

      Don’t worry, the saga of Rabbi Averick and Dr. Coyne is not over, there will most definitely be a Part 2. In the meantime it is time to move on.

      http://www.algemeiner.com/2011/12/19/on-the-death-of-christopher-hitchens-obituary-for-an-atheist-propagandist-2/

      • Despite the kicking your argument got here, 300 replies is too good to pass up an opportunity for more, eh Moshe?

        • JP,
          You’re assuming that the argument actually received a kicking.

          • Normann Wheland

            Your denial of reality is as self-defeating as are most of your arguments which are strewn with infantile fallacies and riddled with ridiculous “evidence.” It seems time for us to stage an intervention on your behalf, but, of course, you would deny that you needed it.

          • Not assuming, Moshe, I have evidence.

            But keep shielding your fragile eyes if that works for you.

      • Move on to where? To the theistic Otherworld of the “IDOL”? Or simply to further repetitions of the mantra that “Life isn’t natural!”?

      • It could be like how he responded to some of my posts by saying, “I don’t understand you; I’ve never heard anyone say anything like that before.” Perhaps he was trying to find a polite way to say, “Your notions are obviously grossly ignorant nonsense, and if you think I’m going to waste my time pretending to take them seriously, you are sadly mistaken. You’re an atheist, ipso facto, you are confused, stupid, wrong, and not very nice. Your ideas are bad and there is simply no excuse for them.”

  • “AS far as I’m concerned it is clearly implausible that life could emerge through an unguided process, therefore the other option is the only reasonable answer.”

    Since only living beings can guide processes, your “other option” is clearly impossible. An unguided process in the emergence of life is the only possibility.

  • Moshe,

    1) I think I understand your position (correct me if I’m wrong):

    You feel certain that life is not a naturally occurring phenomenon, therefore you feel certain that, ipso facto, life was created by supernatural intervention.

    2) You remarked a couple of times that you do not understand my position, then you stopped responding to my follow-ups. Is it logical for us to conclude that you are not giving it a good faith effort?

  • If I forgot to make this comment earlier, now might be a good time for it:

    An interesting title for a book on theology could be, “Theism: Nonsense of a High Order — The Confused and Illusory Other World of the Theist.”

    A good follow-up could be: “Atheism: Not Falling For the Illusion of the Supernatural.”

  • Moshe, you’ve stated over and over that you want scientists to come up with a theory that is, amongst other things, testable.

    You yourself have a theory, intelligent design, that you find not just credible, but compelling.

    Could you briefly outline how, within the framework you propose, that your theory can be predictively tested?

    • I’m not surprised you’ve ignored this question Moshe, I wouldn’t want to try to come up with an answer that didn’t sound like utter nonsense either.

  • Moshe, you’ve stated over and over that you want scientists to come up with a theory that is, amongst other things, demonstrable.

    You yourself have a theory, intelligent design, that you find not just credible, but compelling.

    Could you briefly outline how, within the framework you propose, that your theory can be demonstrated?

    • Jp,

      As I’ve written over and over again, there are only two possibilities. An unguided naturalistic process or a creator who is outside of the physical universe. There are no other options. The very first living organism either was the result of a natural process or it was created. Since it is the first living organism it could not have been created by a physical being, there were no other physical beings.

      The question that needs to be investigated is what is the most reasonable explanation for the existence of life, an intelligent creator or a naturalistic process. If our conclusion is that it is an intelligent creator, then the regress can only lead to a creator who is outside of the physical laws of cause and effect. It is a two step process, first we conclude that it is the result of intelligent intervention, and as it turns out the intelligent intervention can only be creator outside of the physical universe.

      It seems to me where you and others keep getting hung up is that you are under the impression that first we must prove the existence of a supernatural being. This is simply not true. If we conclude that the first living organism could only emerge through intelligent intervention, that itself is the evidence of the supernatural creator.

      If it is not plausible for the first bacdterium to emerge through an unguided process, then the only anser is a supernaturarl creator.

      • “As I’ve written over and over again, there are only two possibilities. An unguided naturalistic process or a creator who is outside of the physical universe. There are no other options.”

        While it is true that you have written that over and over again, it is also true that you are wrong about it. There is only one actual possibility, viz., an “unguided” natural process.

        “A creator who is outside of the physical universe” is not in any way, shape, or form a real possibility. A Supernatural Creator (the “IDOL”) is sheer fantasy, not an actual possibility.

        “The very first living organism either was the result of a natural process or it was created. Since it is the first living organism it could not have been created by a physical being, there were no other physical beings.”

        In fact, the very first living organism was created a natural process. Since it was the first living organism it could not have been created by an intelligent being, since there were no other physical beings.

        • ““As I’ve written over and over again, there are only two possibilities. An unguided naturalistic process or a creator who is outside of the physical universe. There are no other options.”

          While it is true that you have written that over and over again, it is also true that you are wrong about it. There is only one actual possibility, viz., an “unguided” natural process.”

          I disagree with you both. There could be a third (or more) explanation that we haven’t come up with yet. This one is ex recto, but just to make the point. Suppose our descendants evolve until they can travel back in time to start the Universe and/or life and hence ourselves and hence themselves. But I don’t know if the Rabbi will be happy with Gods who are our descendents and ancestors….

      • “If we conclude that the first living organism could only emerge through intelligent intervention, that itself is the evidence of the supernatural creator.”

        There is no rational process by which it can be concluded that “the first living organism could only emerge through intelligent intervention.” Since we are talking about the FIRST living organism, intelligent intervention has been automatically ruled out because intelligence is a post-emergence evolutionary phenomenon.

        The idea of a “supernatural (not-of-this-world) intelligence” is sheer fantasy, not any actual possibility.

      • “If our conclusion is that it is an intelligent creator, then the regress can only lead to a creator who is outside of the physical laws of cause and effect. It is a two step process, first we conclude that it is the result of intelligent intervention, and as it turns out the intelligent intervention can only be creator outside of the physical universe.”

        Your conditional logic here is sound. The problem is that initial “If.”

        There is no rational process by which it can be concluded that there exists the kind of “IDOL” you have in mind. An “intelligent designer”/”intelligent creator” of life is an impossibility — because the existence of intelligence depends on the prior existence of life.

      • “If it is not plausible for the first bacdterium to emerge through an unguided process, then the only answer is a supernatural creator.”

        Again, your conditional proposition is sound, but the actual condition is impossible — so “a supernatual creator” is not plausible (to say the least).

      • This is not a demonstration, it’s an argument. It’s entirely in your head, and not at all in the world. Saying that you find something is implausible is not a demonstration of anything. Offering an even more implausible explanation is also not a demonstration of anything, except perhaps of your disdain for evidence and reality.

        If you want to demonstrate that supernatural intervention happens in the world, the a demonstration of that is to show it happening in the world, under controlled conditions that rule out other explanations.

        Tellingly, the notion that your preferred option relies utterly on – the existence of a supernatural entity – is also left undemonstrated. Your argument is indistinguishable from fiction in all respects.

        Like “naturalistic” and “falsifiable” it seems that “demonstrate” is another word you do not understand.

        • Moshe’s reply by email:

          “Jp,

          You are entitled to your opinion, even if it is the wrong one.”

          Moshe,

          In what way is repeating your argument demonstration of your theory? We’re talking about the creation of life from non-life. Simply saying “here’s a bacterium” demonstrates nothing about how that bacterium was came to be. If you understand what “demonstrable” means, then describe how you would go about demonstrating your theory.

          I’ll take any (more) evasion as (more) evidence that you don’t know what “demonstrable” means, and ignoring the question as an admission that you can’t demonstrate your theory.

          I’ll also take restating of your entirely unempirical argument as evidence that you are completely out of your depth, not even able to grasp what’s being asked of you (which you should understand, as you ask it of others).

          • There is a sense in which the word “you” is sometimes used not as a personal pronoun but as a generic, indefinite pronoun referring to “everybody” or “anybody.” So he could have been trying to say, “Look, everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, so I’m entitled to my own opinion, even if it is the wrong one. So back off.”

            It could be like how we he responded to some of my posts by saying, “I don’t understand you; I’ve never heard anyone say anything like that before.” Perhaps he was trying to find a polite way to say, “Your notions are obviously grossly ignorant nonsense, and if you think I’m going to waste my time pretending to take them seriously, you are sadly mistaken. You’re an atheist, ipso facto, you are confused, stupid, wrong, and not very nice. Your ideas are bad and there is simply no excuse for them.”

            I could be wrong about what he was trying to say, but it’s a plausible theory. Perhaps it will be falsified.

      • Moshe wrote:

        It seems to me where you and others keep getting hung up is that you are under the impression that first we must prove the existence of a supernatural being. This is simply not true. If we conclude that the first living organism could only emerge through intelligent intervention, that itself is the evidence of the supernatural creator.

        I found what look like horse hoofprints on a path near my house, but I’ve never seen a horse around here, so I am forced to consider that they may be hoofprints of an invisible unicorn, which being invisible I wouldn’t have seen even if there were unicorns around my house.

        Given that I’ve never seen a horse around here, the idea that they’re horse hoofprints is not remotely plausible to me. Given that it’s either a horse or a unicorn, it must be a unicorn. There’s no need to get hung up on whether unicorns exist, the hoofprints themselves are proof of the existence of unicorns.

        If it’s not plausible that the hoofprints were made by a horse, then the only answer is that they were made by a unicorn.

        • As I was first reading your post, I thought it was silly and couldn’t be a good analogy to Moshe’s beliefs. But the more I think about, the more it looks like you about nailed it. Moshe’s “IDOL” is no more plausible than your unicorns.

          I think the only reason for my initial reaction that there must be more to Moshe’s position is the extraneous knowledge that there are more (and more fervent) believers in “God the Creator” than there are in unicorns. But of course that is quite irrelevant.

          Then again, there are zebras . . . .

        • Ah, because zebras and horses are real, while unicorns aren’t — and Moshe insists it has to be something unreal. Got it.

      • Moshe wrote, “…you are under the impression that first we must prove the existence of a supernatural being. This is simply not true. If we conclude that the first living organism could only emerge through intelligent intervention, that itself is the evidence of the supernatural creator.

        In other words, his position is that he doesn’t have to prove that God exists because his belief in God is all the evidence he (or anybody else) needs that God really did create life.

      • “As I’ve written over and over again, there are only two possibilities. An unguided naturalistic process or a creator who is outside of the physical universe. There are no other options”

        Utter Nonsense written over and over again, well played sir!

        You have presented a false dichotomy. Do not confuse your lack of imagition with a lack of options in the infinite! Beginningless beginnings anyone? The creator as the creation anyone? Just because you do not find it credible is no reason to discard the notion the we may be the fruit of a tree which is the fruit of a tree which is the fruit of a tree which is the fruit of a t…

        Let me paraphrase your above quote : “I have no real evidence, and hence cannot know, but I declare that I am certain it can only be 1 of two possiblities and will not consider any other options no matter how much they are revered elsewhere on planet earth”

        • Noel,

          Besides the fact that an infinite regression of causes results in a number of philosophical absurdities, the accepted scientific position is that time, space, matter, and energy all had a beginning. Therefore there cannot be an infinite series of causes and effects. I will rephrase: There are only two REASONABLE possibilities….

          No matter what anyone says, you can always say, “Maybe”, I don’t have to consider an infinite number of possiblities, only REASONABLE possibilities. If not, you might as well throw all investigation into the garbage.

          • “an infinite regression of causes results in a number of philosophical absurdities,”
            Really? Whereas “all events have causes – except the causeless first cause: therefore God (and not, heaven forbid, therefore a universe)” does not?

            “the accepted scientific position is that time, space, matter, and energy all had a beginning.”
            This is the fallacy of Appeal to Authority. Science doesn’t work that way. All knowledge is provisional. New information tomorrow may overthrow “the accepted scientific position”.

            Incidentally, I thought you were talking about the origin of life, about four billion years ago on earth (though the recent profusion of known rocky planets makes that less and less necessary).

            But now you seem to be talking about the origin of the universe, about 10 billion years earlier. The only thing those two events have in common is that we don’t know exactly how they happened – yet – and theists use them while they can to buttress their claim that god/dess/es are necessary.

  • “I am certain that God the Creator exists …”

    Why?

    There is no factual, reasonable basis for thinking that “God the Creator” exists, so what is the source of your decision to be “certain”?

    There are only two possibilities: 1) it’s a naturalistic understanding, or 2) it’s blind faith. Since you have defined your “IDOL” as being “outside the physical universe,” then blind faith is the option you’ve chosen. So how do you imagine that gets you anywhere?

  • The Talmudic Sages declare that “someone who wants to lie makes sure that his witnesses and evidence are far away.” In other words, a skilled fabricator always is careful to tell a story that can never be checked out objectively or falsified…

    The “IDOL” story is a case in point.

    And it can also help to avoid paying much attention to dissent from the cherished dogma… (The skilled supernaturalist could claim not to understand naturalistic arguments which would, therefore, render them immaterial in his eyes.) After all, how worthy can reality be when you prefer fantasy?

  • On the problem of explaining the processes of life/intelligence in the universe, it is an evasion to pretend that the explanation lies “outside the universe.” To look “outside the universe” is to give up seeking answers in order to indulge in fantasizing instead.

    Nature is real. The supernatural is imaginary.

  • “What you need to demonstrate is that there is a plausible, empirically demonstrable, testable and falsifiable NATURALISTIC, UNGUIDED process that could go from life to non-life.”

    Naturally, there is such a process. Just look around you: you can see life all around in nature — and since nature is what exists, that’s where life originated.

    Nobody needs to prove that life originated naturally, since there is no other possibility. But it would be quite a feat to figure out someday what the process really was. Our curiosity about it is intense.

    Claiming that we need to “prove” that there’s a natural process for life is like claiming you need to “prove” that there is a natural process by which to walk across the room.

    • Kevin Bjornson

      Technically we cannot say “there is no other possibility” than a naturalistic explanation for life in nature. Because to communicate, we must use natural language, where terms and gestures communicate, based on assigning meaning to shared perceptions. Much as a map describes the territory. If there is no territory corresponding to the map, the map is imaginary; and more–if the map employs undefined symbols, perhaps there is a corresponding territory, but we would never know that.

      Since, by definition, we cannot perceive the supernatural, neither can we talk about the supernatural, even to deny it’s possibility. That would be like saying, “xyz” (undefined) does not exist.

      For the same reason, we cannot say that “G-d” exists or does not exist.
      Because the term either has no meaning, or has a naturalistic meaning.

      • Kevin,

        Imagine you know an embarassing secret about another person and you reveal that secret in front of the person at a gathering of all the people he is close to. Without question, the person will feel terribly humiliated. Monitors attached to his body would record wild fluctuations in his blood pressure, brain waves, body chemistry etc.

        What changed in the physical universe to effect these changes in bodily functions?

        • Adrenaline (epinephrine) secretion, mostly.

        • An embarrassing secret was revealed to others.

        • Kevin, I don’t think you are giving humans enough credit. We are capable of talking about things that don’t exist — in a least a couple of ways.

          For one thing, we can talk of building a house, for instance, that is not yet built.

          For another thing, we can imagine (at least to some logical extent) negations and/or impossible combinations.

          For instance, we could watch a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat — and then imagine a supernatural (not-of-this-world) magician who could pull a rabbit out of nowhere.

          And we can write grammatical sentences that attempt to convey logical self-contradictions, as for instance: The supernatural IDOL exists.

          “IDOL” by the way is my acronym for “Intelligent Designer Of Life,” a designation that is self contradictory since in real life, life precedes intelligence (which evolved later).

        • Kevin Bjornson

          Rabbi, when a person gets upset because of humiliation in front of friends, he is not making a statement about reality. But to go with your analogy, the “embarrassing secret” would remain a secret until communicated using natural language. If instead of that, he had said, the person did “xyz” there would be no communication and no embarrassment.

          Ultimately most things in the organism are oriented toward external reality. We know external reality only through perceptions and analysis or intuition of those perceptions.

          An individual can also observe himself. But it is one or the other. There is no realm of pure ideas (or at least none that we can be aware of or talk about). There is no going outside of reality to talk about supernatural things using natural language. That would be like trying to talk about physics, using chemistry.

      • Kevin, you say that by definition, we can not perceive the supernatural. Does it not then follow that the supernatural can – by your definition – not produce perceivable effects in our universe?

        If that is so, then we can state with full confidence that supernatural agency does not arrange atoms into bacteria, because such a process would be observable.

        If the supernatural really is unknowable in our universe, then there can be no supernatural agency of creation.

      • Kevin, I don’t think you are giving humans enough credit. We are capable of talking about things that don’t exist — in a least a couple of ways.

        For one thing, we can talk of building a house, for instance, that is not yet built.

        For another thing, we can imagine (at least to some logical extent) negations and/or impossible combinations.

        For instance, we could watch a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat — and then imagine a supernatural (not-of-this-world) magician who could pull a rabbit out of nowhere.

        And we can write grammatical sentences that attempt to convey logical self-contradictions, as for instance: The supernatural IDOL exists.

        “IDOL” by the way is my acronym for “Intelligent Designer Of Life,” a designation that is self contradictory since in real life, life precedes intelligence (which evolved later).

  • Rabbi,

    ODDLY ENOUGH I GOT THIS EMAIL FROM YOU, MY APOLOGIES IF IT’S ON THIS THREAD SOMEWHERE BUT I DID NOT SEE IT IN THE COMMENTS. SO HERE IS MY RESPONSE:

    YOU SAID:

    “Amalie,

    As i’ve repeated many times. There are only two possiblities for the origin of life. A creator outside of the physical universe or a naturalistic process of some sort.
    If its not one its the other. Our job now is not to determine if there is evidence for a supernatural creator. Our job is to determine which of the two possibilities is most reasonable, that the first life was the (a) result of an intelligent creator or was the result of (b) an unguided naturalistic process. If we conclude that the most likely solution is (a), it is the existence of life itself which is the evidence for the Creator. No other evidence is needed. Just as the existence of my suit itself is the evidence for the existence of the tailor who made the suit, it is life itself that is the evidence for the existence of the creator.

    Let me put it a different way. If we conclude that there is no plausible naturalistic, unguided path from non-living chemicals to the bacterium, then the only possible and plausible solution is an act of intelligent creation.
    Moshe”

    Rabbi, the tailored suit is not the evidence for the intelligent designer; the suit factory is the evidence. Bowerbirds and beavers create amazing structures that we could just as easily argue looked like they were designed by a human. It’s just a matter of degrees after that.

    We have a very good explaination for the origin of life using preorganic chemicals. For an intelligent designer? Zip. None. Nada. Unless you finally show us where the evidence, is, you’re wrong. And that’s all.

    • “Our job now is not to determine if there is evidence for a supernatural creator.

      That’s a job you would never want to attempt because there is no evidence. A “supernatural creator” is as possible as a “square circle.”

      Our job is to determine which of the two possibilities is most reasonable, that the first life was the (a) result of an intelligent creator or was the result of (b) an unguided naturalistic process.

      And this job is easy. The only possibility is an unguided natural process. For one thing, only nature exists, and the supernatural is pure fantasy.

      Of course the “first life” could not have been intelligently guided since before there was life there was nobody around to intelligently guide anything.

      To repeat: it is not possible that “the first life was the result of an intelligent creator.” The notion might make interesting fiction, but it is not real life.

      The first life was not the result of a square circle, either.

    • “Our job now is not to determine if there is evidence for a supernatural creator.”

      That’s a job you would never want to attempt because there is no evidence. A “supernatural creator” is as possible as a “square circle.”

      “Our job is to determine which of the two possibilities is most reasonable, that the first life was the (a) result of an intelligent creator or was the result of (b) an unguided naturalistic process.”

      And this job is easy. The only possibility is an unguided natural process. For one thing, only nature exists, and the supernatural is pure fantasy.

      Of course the “first life” could not have been intelligently guided since before there was life there was nobody around to intelligently guide anything.

      To repeat: it is not possible that “the first life was the result of an intelligent creator.” The notion might make interesting fiction, but it is not real life.

      The first life was not the result of a square circle, either.

    • “If we conclude that there is no plausible naturalistic, unguided path from non-living chemicals to the bacterium, then the only possible and plausible solution is an act of intelligent creation.”

      There is no rational way to reach such a conclusion. And “intelligent creation of life” is not possible, let alone plausible.

      What you are doing is starting with a belief in an “IDOL”, and then, feeling safe in that belief, absurdly claiming that you “conclude” that life is not possible in nature.

    • Amalie,

      I appreciate your politeness, which is nice considering the tone of many of the other commenters. However, I don’t know quite what to say to you at this point.
      We seem to be operating on parallel planes. perhaps one day we will meet in person and can continue this discussion.

      • Rabbi,

        You have been a good sport. I know many people who would have flipped out at this level of criticism. I think most of us stuck to the discussion at hand. I think there are no stupid people, just stupid actions and ideas. Have a good Christmas and take care.

    • Kevin Bjornson

      There is a third possibility, that of natural processes guiding life.
      In fact that occurs routinely, humans shape genetics through design or unintentionally.

  • “Militant” atheist?? Okay, so tell me exactly WHAT type of firearm or artillery Coyne is packing in his “militant” actions. Oh, WORDS? Then shut up the ignorant rhetoric about being “militant”. Militant is what anti-abortion bombers and shooters are. Militant is what racist/white supremacist and Christian Identity militias are. Enough slander. You want an adjective to describe atheists? Try “intellectual”. It’s far more accurate.

    • Aveteran,

      I first saw the term “militant” atheist in a book by Dr. Julian Baggini an atheist philosopher in England. It was called Atheism: A Short Introduction. I cite him several times in my book. He actually writes that he dislkes the militant atheism of writers like Dawkins and Hitchens. The word militant is in quotation marks for a reason. It means that the word militant is not meant to be taken literally but implies an aggressive promotion of atheistic ideology.

      People who blow off bombs or break windows are not “militant” they are VIOLENT with no quotation marks. From the tone of your writing it sounds like you are working yourself into a frenzy and might turn violent if you don’t take a few deep breaths and calm down.

      • No, Mushe, you use “militant” as a way to disparage those you disagree with, sarcasm quotes notwithstanding.

        To theists like you any atheists that voices their opinion beyond a polite cough is “militant”.

        But show me I’m wrong; name an atheist who has written a book that isn’t “militant”.

      • Moshe,

        Do you consider yourself a “militant theist”, or perhaps a “militant anti-atheist”? You did write a book with a rather aggressive anti-atheistic title . . .

  • ‘The Talmudic Sages declare that “someone who wants to lie makes sure that his witnesses and evidence are far away.” In other words, a skilled fabricator always is careful to tell a story that can never be checked out objectively or falsified…’

    … exactly like the story of “God the Creator,” the fabulous “IDOL,” who allegedly lives “outside the physical universe.” Can’t get any farther away than that, or less objectively checkable!

  • Moshe, you’ve stated over and over that you want scientists to come up with a theory that is, amongst other things, falsifiable.

    You yourself have a theory, intelligent design, that you find not just credible, but compelling.

    Could you briefly outline how, within the framework you propose, that your theory could be falsified?

    • Since the “IDOL” (“Intelligent Designer Of Life”) isn’t of this world, there is no evidence for its existence, therefore, there is nothing to dispute, argumentwise. That is, the “IDOL” is “unfalsifiable” (to use that rather bizarre term) because it is unprovable — a cognitively empty fantasy.

    • JP,

      If you discover a plausible, empirically demonstrable, testable, and falsifiable, naturalistic process that explains how life could come from non-life, my theory is falsified.

      • Well, if a naturalistic process were discovered, it wouldn’t actually falsify your theory. At that point from your perspective you’d have two theories, and you’d have to weigh up the evidence for both.

        Your admission that at that point the naturalistic theory would automatically prevail only follows if the amount of evidence for ID is zero. At least you got that right.

      • Moshe,

        Your notion of an “IDOL” is not a theory, it is an assertion of faith and is thus unprovable, unfalsifiable — in short, perfectly non-scientific/non-cognitive. Since you are holding your belief in “God the Creator” as something not-of-this-world, there is no possible evidence (which always comes only from the real world) that could touch your belief.

      • Kevin Bjornson

        You may have a theory, but we will never know any of your theories unless you communicate using natural language. Since natural language cannot communicate about the supernatural, literally you are saying nothing.

  • Moshe,

    I am having a hard time understanding your line of thinking. You keep pushing the assertion that “God the Creator” and “IDOL” is miraculously an alternative to nature. But there is no logic or basis in reality for your belief, so what is the attraction (or the compelling factor)?

    Why does this have the aura of being a big deal for you?

  • >it sounds almost like you had a revelation from God.

    No, I told you, I read a book, it was a “revelation” from science. If it was from your god it would be some incomprehensible contradictory mistranslated mythology that would have little real world application outside of entertainment and culture.

    >it still doesn’t solve the problem of origin of life.

    Nor does your “solution” of a god did it.

    And without a doubt science has provided far more insight into what it could be than your dusty scrolls have.

    >Evolution is irrelevant to the question of God the Creator.

    No, it’s quite relevant because the god you’re talking about claims to have made all the animals in a few days in the exact shape as they are now and we know KNOW that simply isn’t so.

    Once again you are tying to build a theory on a foundation that is quicksand, it will not stand.

    Unless of course this God the Creator you’re talking about is an entirely different entity..?

    • The impotence and vacuousness of the notion that “God the Creator” exists speaks volumes about the irrationality of religion.

      Belief in the supernatural is worse than a waste of time: religious supernturalism is actually destructive of thinking and science. Attempting to be not-of-this-world is not a practical idea for living, thinking, and thriving.

  • The IDOL theory has nothing going for it.

    And darn little of that, when you get right down to it.

    (Or, I suppose, a whole lot of nothing, if you consider the load of repetitions of the mantra that “only the unnatural can explain nature,” i.e., “God the Creator did it!”)

  • Who Really Believes Jesus Existed Anyway?
    http://www.squidoo.com/who-really-believes-jesus-existed

  • You say over and over that there is no evidence life happened through an “unguided process”. Where is your evidence for a *guided* process, then? Don’t you realize your ideas have been seriously damaged here? Where is your evidence?

    • Amalie,

      If you actually think that a bacterium is “crude” or “easy to understand” then I’m not sure if we have any common ground from which to have a discussion.

      However, in a perhaps last ditch attempt to convince you otherwise I offer the following from Dr. Paul DAvies, Dr. Robert Hazen, and Dr. Michael Denton
      none of them advocates of ID although Denton is perhaps more sympathetic than the other two.

      DAVIES:
      What stands out as the central unsolved puzzle in the scientific account of life, is how the first microbe came to exist…The living cell is the most complex system of its size known to mankind. Its host of specialized molecules…executes a dance of exquisite fidelity, orchestrated with breathtaking precision…How did something so immensely complicated, so finessed, so exquisitely clever, come into being all on its own? How can mindless molecules…cooperate to form something as ingenious as a living organism?

      Scientists have fabricated invisible cogwheels, motors the size of a pinhead, and electrical switches as tiny as individual molecules…the burgeoning field of nanotechnology – building structures and devices measured on a scale of billionths of a meter promises to revolutionize our lives…but …nature got there first. The world is already full of nanomachines: they are called living cells. Each cell is packed with tiny structures that might have come straight from an engineer’s manual. Miniscule tweezers, scissors, pumps, motors, levers, valves, pipes, chains, and even vehicles abound. The various components fit together to form a smoothly functioning whole, like an elaborate factory production line. The miracle of life is not that it is made of nanotools, but that these tiny diverse parts are integrated in a highly organized way…with a fine tuning and complexity as yet unmatched by any human engineering…how do all these mindless atoms know what to do?…somehow, collectively, these unthinking atoms get it together and perform the dance of life with exquisite precision.

      HAZEN
      We [know] that the simplest living cell is intricate beyond imagining, because every cell relies on the interplay of millions of molecules engaged in hundreds of interdependent chemical reactions. Human brains seem ill suited to grasp such multi-dimensional complexity.

      DENTON
      Although the tiniest living things known to science, bacterial cells, are incredibly small, each is a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of elegantly designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by man and without parallel in the non-living world…we would see that nearly every feature of our own advanced machines had its analogue in the cell: artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of parts and components, error fail-safe and proof reading devices utilized for quality control…What we would be witnessing would be an object resembling an immense automated factory, a factory larger than a city and carrying out almost as many unique functions as all the manufacturing activities of man on earth. However, it would be a factory which would have one capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of hours.

      THE PROBLEM OF PROTEIN FOLDING
      In October of 1999, IBM announced that it was launching a $100 million research initiative to build a computer that could perform a quadrillion computations per second [a quadrillion is 1 followed by 15 zeros or a thousand trillion]. The project was dubbed Blue Gene. The purpose of the computer was “to help researchers understand how proteins are created, knowledge that could lead to a better understanding of diseases and uncover possible cures.” An article on CNET News went on to describe in more detail what tasks the computer would perform:

      Blue Gene will take on the problem of protein folding, the biochemical process by which complex molecules are constructed by instructions carried in the DNA. As proteins are assembled from components called amino acids, the long strand of molecules twists and folds in a three dimensional bundle, leaving some active sites protruding from the protein to react with the environment.

      How exactly the protein will fold up is governed by basic rules of how atoms attract and repel each other, Horn said. [Paul Horn, Senior Vice-President of IBM research] But the size of proteins, often with thousands of atoms, makes predicting that arrangement a very difficult task. Hemoglobin- also known as the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body- is made of 600 amino acids, for example.

      Blue Gene’s final product, due in four or five years, will be able to “fold” a protein made of 300 amino acids, Horn said. But that job will take an entire year of full time computing.”

      Once the molecular machinery of a cell assembles a particular protein, it takes about one minute for it to fold into its precise three-dimensional shape without which the protein will not function. This means that the microscopic cellular protein factory enables the precision folding process of proteins to function approximately 500,000 times faster than a computer making a thousand trillion computations per second. (It is also worth noting that most proteins are significantly larger than 300 amino acids.) Nobel Laureate Dr. Francis Crick describes protein folding as a “miracle of molecular construction.” The problem is obvious to any thinking person: How does the “simplest” bacteria – each being a “micro miniaturized factory…far more complicated than any machinery built by man,” accomplishing “ingenious marvels of construction and control, with a fine tuning and complexity as yet unmatched by any human engineering,” and performing tasks with ease that strain the capabilities of a super-computer – assemble itself “naturally” with no intelligent designer to help things along? It strains human credulity well beyond the breaking point to believe that it could happen by chance.

      Please look at this link on You?Tube about DNA
      If you still don’t see the issue after this, I don’t know what I could possibly say:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PKjF7OumYo

      • Remember that all intelligent designers are people, and it makes no sense to claim that people invented bacteria.

        Since intelligence evolved after life originated, there could not possibly have been any “intelligent designer to help things along” regarding the origin of life. It could only have happened naturally. It is guaranteed to have happened naturally: there is no alternative.

      • Rabbi –

        Thank you for at least using some sources. But my point is – so what? How is that evidence for a “guided process”? Your hypothesis is that it’s too complicated to not be done by some human-like figure?

        Let me tell you why that is absurd.

        First of all, you’re postulating that this “guider”, assumably human-like, is capable of more complex tasks than the natural processes on Earth. That is a highly arrogant assumption.

        After all, it is you who insists it is very difficult to understand by humans. Therefore how could a human-like, “intelligent” guider do a better job than the planet, which is surrounded by a soup of chemicals and chemical reactions??

        The chemicals on Earth had nothing better to do on Earth for 4 BILLION years than to sit around and react. Don’t you think something interesting had to come out of that? I do.

        Furthermore, you gave me paragraph upon paragraph of scientists waxing fantastic, but zero evidence of your “guider”. I’m still waiting.

        Published articles, please.

      • All I draw from that, Moshe, is that nature is very complex, and even the smartest of humans have trouble getting their heads around the more complex parts. So what? Firstly, we knew that already, and secondly, why should understanding every complexity of nature be within the capacity of the human brain?

        That’s a serious question. Why is is it 100% necessary that we, the smartest of the apes, be smart enough to solve this problem?

        There are plenty of scientific phenomena that even the smartest chimps can not understand. Lightning. Chemical reactions. Whatever. Chimps may indeed never figure those things out. But that doesn’t mean God did it. It means they need to be smarter to work it out. Same goes for us, and the processes we are yet to understand.

        The hubris and arrogance required to state that if humans can’t figure something out then it’s impossible to figure out is truly astounding. You treat humans as gods to even suggest it, and yet most of us know we’re a bit more limited and fallible than to know all that can be known.

    • Normann Wheland

      Moshe said: “I offer the following from Dr. Paul DAvies, Dr. Robert Hazen, and Dr. Michael Denton none of them advocates of ID…”

      Amalie,

      Don’t you just love it when Moshe defeats his own arguments!

    • There is no evidence. The whole “God-guided process” thing is pure fantasy.

    • Kevin Bjornson

      There is plenty of evidence for guiding of life processes.
      For example, wheat originated as a primitive grass,
      humans intelligently designed a more useful plant,
      through artificial selection.

  • Normann Wheland

    Farewell, great voice. Great voice of reason, of humanity, of humour. Great voice against cant, against hypocrisy, against obscurantism and pretension, against all tyrants including God. Farewell, great warrior. You were in a foxhole, Hitch, and you did not flinch. Farewell, great example to us all. ~~ JULI WEINER – VANITY FAIR

  • Andy,

    No I did not quote George Whitesides out of context. In fact somewhere else in the comments I included that part of his quote. You are correct that if the odds are 1 in a million and you have a million attempts, the improbable is not improbable anymore, it becomes a certainty. The problem that everyone acknowldedges is that the probabilities involved in forming even self-replicating RNA strands through unguided processes and the formation of functional proteins etc. are well beyond the probabilistic capabilities that the universe has to offer. We are talking about odds ranging from 10 to the power of hundreds to 10 to the power of thousands and even tens of thousands.

    • Normann Wheland

      Wrong again, as usual, Moshe. See below.

      FROM==> http://earthfusion.org/faqs/abioprob/abioprob.html#Intro

      “Problems with the creationists’ “it’s so improbable” calculations

      Introduction

      Every so often, someone comes up with the statement “the formation of any enzyme by chance is nearly impossible, therefore abiogenesis is impossible”. Often they cite an impressive looking calculation from the astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, or trot out something called “Borel’s Law” to prove that life is statistically impossible. These people, including Fred, have committed one or more of the following errors.

      1) They calculate the probability of the formation of a “modern” protein, or even a complete bacterium with all “modern” proteins, by random events. This is not the abiogenesis theory at all.

      2) They assume that there is a fixed number of proteins, with fixed sequences for each protein, that are required for life.

      3) They calculate the probability of sequential trials, rather than simultaneous trials.

      4) They misunderstand what is meant by a probability calculation.

      5) They seriously underestimate the number of functional enzymes/ribozymes present in a group of random sequences.

      [...]“

    • Whether you state the odds for the supernatural at 0 in a million or 0 in one, the possibility is still zero. There is no way to raise that probability above zero.

      • Normann Wheland

        Indeed, if one accepts the argument that the probability of natural abiogenesis is infinitesimally small because of the complexity of life, then it follows that the probability of an even more complex “intelligence” which might have “created” that “improbably” complex life is so much smaller. This is actually a self-defeating argument for a creation intelligence as are so many other of the arguments for the existent of god(s)!

        • The point is that it makes no difference how small the “probability” of life is, it is still greater than zero (since life exists) while the probability of the supernatural is absolutely zero.

      • Kevin Bjornson

        We cannot say that the odds for the “supernatural” are zero,
        because the term simply means “other than natural” and by
        definition, all that exists is within the natural reality.
        That would be like saying, the odds of “xyz” are zero,
        while in reality we cannot say anything about the undefined.

        To define terms using natural language, automatically limits
        our options to the natural.

        Similarly we cannot say that something came from nothing.
        Because if something could come from nothing, that “nothing”
        would be something–ie the thing that led to something.
        Because the nothing that led to something, at least would have one thing–the potential to become something.

        Time is simply the measurement of motion. Without motion, there is no time. When we say something came from nothing, that implies a time sequence, wherein something moves from state “a” to state “b”.
        A thing cannot move from a state of nothing to a state of somethingness, because motion implies a moving entity (something) and without the entity there can be no motion.

        Therefore we cannot say that something came from nothing, because “nothing” must be defined as “other than something”. We cannot think of nothing; if all of our thoughts were devoted to thinking about nothing, we would not be thinking. To say that “something comes into existence from nothing” is like saying “something comes from other-than something”. However we wouldn’t really be saying anything, because “other than something” means “other than existing”. WE cannot talk about non-existence, because to do so would be nonsense. Words must refer to real things, or they have no meaning and therefore cannot be communicated.

        • Humans can – and very, very frequently do – use words to meaningfully talk of non-physically-existent things. Even you do, repeatedly, in the very post above.

  • Like always, the creationists have nothing but words. Where is your evidence?

  • Rabbi Averick,

    I can understand why some folks here are getting a little frustrated with your responses. You don’t seem to be directly addressing issues raised or you’re obfuscating with secondary issues and misattribution.

    For instance, you attempted to belittle me by implying that I believed that God was like a movie character. My clear reference in mentioning the anthropormisization of God was to the ancients and not myself.

    You seemed to have missed my point in bringing up evolution. (Which you, in fact, do talk about in the article above.) I brought it as an analogous situation to the discussion at hand, ie the origin of life. Specifically, just as initially the paucity of evidence for evolution allowed theists to continue to interpret the creation narrative literally, so too you are attempting to use a lack of experimental evidence to further a theistic understanding of the origin of life. Rather than dismiss me for bringing up evolution, you should be addressing that issue, which is quite relevant to this discussion.

    Really? You’re accusing me of making this a “Jewish” issue? Um, you’re a Rabbi, you’re presenting a religious position on the issue of origin, and you quoted from the Talmud to support your position above. That reminds of the guys from Brooklyn with beards, tzitzit hanging out, and that general “frum” look who wear a cap on their heads on the subway so people can’t tell they’re Jewish!

    I’m sure you believe that by hitching your cart to an agnostic scientist you can present the illusion that you’re not approaching this from a Jewish perspective, but rather from a “rational” one. Maybe in the short term, but, as a scientist, Berlinsky will leave you high and dry at the first sign of “trouble”. You see, unlike you, he has no horse in this race. You’ve backed yourself into a corner by saying that natural origin “is impossible”. Why would you do that? Rambam, Rav Kook, Rav Hirsch, Rav JB Soloveitchik, and so many other great Jewish thinkers would not support you in making such an assertion. They were visionary enough to understand that the Torah often talked in non-literal terms and were prepared to re-interpret it when faced with hard science.

    But all that aside, I have to return to your tone. Let’s say there’s even a basis for you replying to Dr. Coyne in, what you perceive as, the same manner he addressed you. You’re not alone in a room with him. You are behaving this way on an open stage in front the entire world. Is this really how you want to portray orthodox Judaism? Hasn’t your work in Kiruv at Aish taught you that you’re not going to win over hearts and minds by being offensive? With this diverse audience you’ve tragically squandered the opportunity to show so many people that דרכיה דרכי נועם, the Torah’s ways should be ways of pleasantness.

    To my mind one of the most important mitzvot is קדושים תהיו as understood by the Ramban. Sure, maybe on some technicality you’re allowed to respond to Dr. Coyne in kind. But doesn’t that just make you a נבל ברשות התורה? It’s so clear to me that you’ve taken the opportunity to create a קידוש השם and turned it into חילול השם. Yes, you don’t agree, I know. That makes me even sadder.

    • Michael,

      Can you please stop being so rational, reasonable and respectful? I have a certain stereotype of Orthodox Jews and your are upsetting it with your sensible posts.

    • Michael,

      You’ve backed yourself into a corner by saying that natural origin “is impossible”.

      This is the type of statement people make when instead of actually listening or reading carefully what someone has to say, they are simply looking for an excuse to state their own opinion.

      -I haven’t backed myself into a corner at all. I have come to a conclusion about the implications of Origin of Life research and I stand by it confidently. I challenge you or anyone else to prove me wrong. For you it would be called backing yourself into a corner because you have decided beforehand what you desire the outcome to be. I simply follow the evidence where it leads me.

      You are entitled to your own opinion and approach to discerning reality. However, please do not attempt to pigeonhole my ideas into your preconceived notions.

      • Rabbi Averick,

        Again you’re deflecting.

        You can’t prove yourself right by my inability to, currently, prove you wrong.

        A person who says this,

        “I simply follow the evidence where it leads me.”,

        could never say this,

        “it is impossible for a cell’s machines to have formed spontaneously from non-living matter.”

        Unlikely, highly improbably based on current scientific evidence, but “impossible”? As Spock would say, “Quite illogical Rabbi”.

        Well, it’s almost Shabbat here. Please consider what I said regarding the way you’re projecting yourself and thus how you’re representing Judaism.
        You have nothing to lose and much to gain by changing your approach.

        שבת שלום

        • Michael,

          If I would say to you that it is impossible for the scultptures at Mt. Rushmore to be the result of natural processes, would you say to me that it’s not “impossible” but “highly improbable”? Whatever term you would use for Mt. Rushmore is the appropriate term for the bacterium. Let’s be more precise. It is clear beyond all reasonable doubt that both the sculptures at Mt. Rushmore and the bacterium are the products of intelligent intervention.

          • So your claim is that humans invented “the bacterium”? There’s no other source for that Mt. Rushmore type of intelligent intervention.

          • Rabbi Averick,

            שבוע טוב

            The comparison to Mount Rushmore is specious. In fact, better yet, why don’t you make the analogy to a 747. Much more complex. The thing is, with both of those who KNOW exactly how they were created.

            A better analogy would be to compare it to man’s view of the universe just a few hundred years ago. At the time “it was clear beyond a reasonable doubt” that there couldn’t be a natural process for the creation of something so vast and, of course it was “known” that God created it in 6 days. Now we have a pretty clear picture of the process the occurred in the natural development of the universe. A “Rabbi Averick” from those days would look pretty silly now.

            There’s no reason, theologically, that we as orthodox Jews HAVE to believe that God directly initiated that transition from lifelessness to life.

            I don’t pretend to deeply understand the science that’s being discussed here, but pure logic tells me that, just like so many other mysteries our ancestors initially attributed to the hand of God, for this too, a plausible natural process will come to be accepted, if not actually proven.

            I, for one, far from feeling threatened, am very excited at the prospect.

        • Michael,

          I find it interesting that you call the argument specious. The analogy to the 747 was proposed by Sir Fred Hoyle one of the most distinguished scientists of the 20th century.He of course was talking about the origin of life.

          When you see cave drawings you don’t KNOW that it was the result of intelligent agency. You CONCLUDE that it is the only reasonable answer. If you see John Loves Mary carved on a tree you dont KNOW where it came from, you simply draw the obvious conclusion. It is also clear that what you said is true, you really don’t know much of the science involved. The coding in the DNA of the simplest bacterium is more complex than any software program ever written by any human being and it is in pure digital code.

          It is in fact your glib argument that is quite specious. I told you already, you can believe anything you want. What you choose to believe does not really concern me that much. thank you for sharing that you are not “threatened”

          • Rabbi Averick,

            You’re very predictable on two counts.

            Of course Hoyle gave the 747 example. The example itself was based outdated understanding and has been roundly debunked.

            Also, as you get more frustrated you lash out more with ad hominum attacks, as you did by referring to my “glib” comment.

            I’ve gone as far on this with you as I think we can go.

            My parting advice to you is אם try going heavier on the honestly and humility.

            What a different conversation this would be if you:

            - Admitted up front that you believe that God created the world and you’re looking for science to back you up. And that’s why you’re focusing on scientists that seem to do so.
            - Acknowledge that you don’t know everything, but that based on what you’ve studies the evidence seems to support your view. However, you are open to the possibility that science may come to a clearer understanding of how life could have originated in a “natural” way.

            כל טוב

      • There is no evidence for the supernatural, so whatever you feel about any evidence there actually is, that’s not where it leads. You seem to head for the supernatural simply because you feel that reality isn’t enough to satisfy you. That’s emotion, not evidence.

      • Moshe said:

        “For you it would be called backing yourself into a corner because you have decided beforehand what you desire the outcome to be. I simply follow the evidence where it leads me.”

        I can’t imagine how you can say that and expect anyone to not see you as a hypocrite. You claim that a god did it because you have your mind made up in advance. There is no evidence of any gods, therefor it is impossible for you to “follow the evidence” to a god.

        At best, your ‘interpretation’ of the currently available scientific evidence could be called an ‘inference’ but an inference is not evidence. Your biased belief system “leads” you to infer/interpret/believe what you’re pre-programmed to believe.

        If you truly follow the evidence where it leads, you would not have any preconceived beliefs about a god being at the end of the evidence trail.

        There’s as much evidence for gods as there is for pink unicorns: none. Do you think it would be reasonable and logical to infer that a pink unicorn designed and created the universe and everything in it? If I were to say that I believe that a pink unicorn designed and created the universe and everything in it, would you think that I’m following the evidence where it leads? Could you prove me wrong?

        You said “I simply follow the evidence where it leads me.”, not I simply follow the evidence where it leads. The “me” is significant and should tell you something. Your inner “me” is programmed to believe only things that fit with that programming even though there’s no evidence that supports that programming.

        If you had been born into a remote tribe in the Amazon Rain Forest, do you think you would have the same religious programming and beliefs you have now?

        • The whole truth,

          We all have the exact same dilemma. All of us have to deal with the social/psychological conditioning with which we have been raised.
          All we can do is be as objective as we possibly can.

  • “The notion that something as functionally complex as a bacterium and its genetic machinery could emerge through a naturalistic, unguided process is so absurd that it can be rejected out of hand.”

    You may play at rejecting it if you feel so inclined. Nevertheless, there is no possibility regarding the origin of life other than an “unguided process” — since, in pre-life times, nobody was around to provide guidance.

  • The crux of this entire discussion:

    Mose Averick states:

    “The notion that something as functionally complex as a bacterium and its genetic machinery could emerge through a naturalistic, unguided process is so absurd that it can be rejected out of hand. However, I am prepared to change my mind if I am presented with conclusive evidence.” [emphasis added]

    So, Tachless, Moishe:

    What would you consider “conclusive evidence” that would “change your mind?

    • David,

      A plausible, empirically demonstrable, testable and falsifiable process that could lead from non-life to life.

      • You’ve already stated, many times, that if a process that led from non-life to life was demonstrated, you would attribute that to the intelligence of the scientists concerned, and NOT change your mind.

        Which is it?

        • Jp,

          dont be pedantic. A plausible, NATURALISTIC PROCESS, that could lead from life to non-life. If scientists create life in the lab that supports Intelligent Design.

          • 1) It would in no way whatsoever support your assertion of Supernatural Intelligent Design if scientists could figure out how to “create life in the lab.” Scientists are actual people. Of this world. God is a flight of fancy.

            2) A NATURALISTIC PROCESS is not only plausible, it is the ONLY possibility. Try as you might, you could never come up with any plausible alternative process.

          • So why did you say that “A plausible, empirically demonstrable, testable and falsifiable process that could lead from non-life to life” would change your mind?

            Clearly when you said that, you were lying.

            Don’t lie.

            Lying is bad, mmmkay?

          • “A plausible, NATURALISTIC PROCESS, that could lead from life to non-life.”

            In other words, you assume a non-evidential, supernatural “process” unless you’re shown otherwise.

            The thought of that boggles my mind. WHY would anyone prefer to believe in fairy tales unless it’s proven to them that reality can do the job? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

            Don’t you realize that if you set your standard that way, everyone else can do the same thing, and that means that any belief in anything, no matter how crazy it is, becomes as valid as your beliefs unless it can be proven that those beliefs are wrong?

            Individual beliefs in whatever mythical, supernatural fairy tales anyone can conjure up are not and never should be the standard by which science investigates, compares, and determines the facts. Science can only proceed by investigating natural evidence and processes, not supernatural mumbo jumbo.

            Anyone can believe in whatever they want but don’t expect science to give every belief the scientific seal of approval, or to prove every belief wrong. And especially don’t expect science to give your belief in a supernatural god any consideration or to prove that your beliefs are right and all other beliefs in supernatural sky fairies are wrong.

          • Thank you, I believe I do.

            I have a brilliant and beautiful wife and three (mostly) charming, polite, and intelligent kids. I have no debt, and a modest home filled with interesting things nestled on a riverbank with wilderness rainforest on the opposite bank. My community is safe, friendly, creative and supportive. I volunteer my time to local schools, festivals and natural disaster response organisations. I give to many charities, supporting underprivileged children both in my own country and abroad, and care for my elderly mother.

            I tell you what, I’ll retract the accusation of lying if you admit that you don’t have a clue what the word “naturalistic” means. As far as I can see, it’s either one or the other.

      • The key question is what do you define as life.

        Scientists (e.g John Sutherland at Manchester University) have shown how nucleotides can form from very simple, basic chemical elements in an environment that does nothing more complex than repeated hydration & evaporation (i.e. like a shallow puddle). These nucleotides are the building blocks of RNA which itself is capable of self-catalysing, replication reactions.

        No scientist believes that complex life (even something as relatively ‘simple’ as a bacteria) formed de-novo but we are now able to show that the various stages in the chemical -> nucleotide -> RNA -> DNA -> cell progress are not just possible but almost inevitable.

        • Andy,

          I have great admiration for the genius and ingenuity of scientists. Without in any way attempting to minimize their accomplishments, I have to point out that you have exaggerated the implications of the work of someone like Dr. Sutherland.

          Even after manufacturing RNA strands using the most advanced lab techniques available, the self-replication is at the most primitive level, if it can be considered self-replication at all. Read the lab protocols involved in forming the nucleotides that Sutherland synthesized and you will see why Robert Shapiro insisted that while the chemistry was wonderful, the notion that these reactions would take place in a natural setting without the lab or the scientist helping things along, strains credulity beyond the breaking point. Every single aspect of the environment, from temperature to PH levels, to purifying the reactions from non-essential chemicals, to the exact moment that the chemicals were exposed to ultra violet radiation were all meticulously controlled, and were controlled for specific purposes. If raw ingredients had been added without any supervision, the product would have been exactly as expected, a big pool of gunk.

          • Your incredulity would be oh so more plausible if it weren’t for the simple fact that the environments the researchers work so hard to create and maintain in the lab are actually reconstructions (based on independent geological and astronomical research) of the environments believed to be prevalent on the Earth a few billion years ago.

            On the one hand, one might accuse you of being a blithering idiot for being so ignorant of the most basic facts of research into abiogenesis.

            On the other hand, you have no plausible excuse for ignorance, as you have repeatedly responded to presentations of facts with continued protestations of ignorance.

            So, again, you prove yourself the liar.

            And the fool, too, for only a fool would take such delight in being so thoroughly and repeatedly humiliated whilst failing to recognize he’s humiliating himself.

            Cheers,

            b&

  • Moshe Averick, you have, in fact, added yet another data point supporting the well-established principle that religion does not make one more moral, and that the more orthodox and deeper one’s beliefs, the less one’s behavior reflects those beliefs.

  • “because it is impossible for a cell’s machines to have formed spontaneously from non-living matter. The notion that the functional complexity of a bacterium could be the result of an unguided process is as absurd as asserting that the sculptures on Mt. Rushmore were the result of an unguided, naturalistic process”

    Okay, I’ll bite. Which published scientific article called this process “spontaneous”? Just curious. Also, what exactly do you mean by unguided process? Are you saying there is such a mountain of evidence for an intelligent designer that evolutionary theory and the origin of life is now absurd? Again, show me the evidence. Is there even one single master’s or Ph.D. program teaching this “unguided process”? I’d love to hear about it.

    “sort of like Dr. Jerry Coyne telling us that while today he has zero evidence that life could come from non-life through an unguided process, not to worry: 50 years in the future we’ll have all the evidence we need. I am certain that God the Creator exists”

    Why 50 years? Is there research in the works we don’t know about? And sorry, just because you don’t understand the Miller and Urey experiment where amino acids were produced from what you Creationists would call “nothing” otherwise known as nonorganic precursors like water, methane, hydrogen and ammonia, your beliefs do not discredit the experiment. If you want to play with the big boys in science, show us some evidence now.

    “A fanatic is someone who is so emotionally and psychologically bound up with their beliefs, that they are incapable of considering another point of view. Coyne is a fanatical atheist and a fanatical Darwinist. From Coyne’s psychological perspective, it is impossible for there to be flaws in evolutionary theory”

    Evolutionary theory is not a belief. Let’s say I told you “I do not beleive in red blood cells”. Well, no one gives a rat’s behind what I believe. They’re either there or they’re not. So why should I care what you believe? Show me your evidence. There is no such thing as a “Darwinist” anymore than someone who believes in gravity is an “Einsteinist”.

    Of course there are unanswered questions in evolution, just like there are for gravity or any other theory. That does not mean that intelligent design is right. It means that after 150 years of evidence including genetic evidence, evolution has been confirmed over and over and the new understandings of coevolutions and mutations mean it’s stronger than ever before. Where’s your evidence?

    • Amalie,

      There is, of course, a mountain of evidence that functional complexity and specified information ONLY AND EXCLUSIVELY result from intelligent design. There are levels of functional complexity (a bicycle) and specified information (the front page of the Boston Globe) that the human mind simply refuses to accept could have resulted from an unguided process. Whatever that exact level is, is beside the point. A bicycle, the front page of the Globe and a bacterium are certainly well over that line.

      I am prepared to concede the truth of neo-darwinian theory for the sake of argument. However the products of the evolutionary process, although also well over the line are irrelevant to our question. They can only result once the first living bacterium, with it’s super-sophisticated genetic material is in place. That is not an unguided process, it is guided by highly complex molecular machinery. There is no explanation for the unguided origin of the bacterium. Where did this machinery come from? The essential question has not been answered. This is the reason why Dawkins writes that he could not imagine being an atheist before 1859. In fact he made a serious error. The crucial question is not evolution but origin of life. Regarding this question we are still in pre-1859 times.

      • Moshe, you are equivocating again about “intelligent design.” The fact that human beings can intelligently design bicycles carries ZERO implication that an unreal, unliving, not-of-this-world “God the Creator” exists and could be capable of “Intelligent Design Of Life (IDOL).” You can’t get there from here.

      • Thank you for your response, Moshe and first I’d like to say that I am not (nor is anyone else, I don’t think) attacking you as a person, we are only saying your ideas are not correct.

        “There is, of course, a mountain of evidence that functional complexity and specified information ONLY AND EXCLUSIVELY result from intelligent design”

        Moshe, understand one thing about science. A comment on a blog does not constitute evidence. You have not shown us evidence, Moshe. If you want to play with the big boys of science, you have to present published articles or at least written observations from the field or a lab. Bicycles are not organisms.

        As one commenter said, we can drive to the bicycle factory. Where is the organism factory?

        “They can only result once the first living bacterium, with it’s super-sophisticated genetic material is in place. That is not an unguided process, it is guided by highly complex molecular machinery”

        What do you mean, “super sophisticated” and “highly complex”? Yeah, its not Sesame Street but even a dolt like me can understand most of it. When I was earning my undergrad (then Master’s in science) I understood perfectly the workings of the cell and genetics.

        Others have studied and understood on a great level how it works. In most ways it’s crude, actually. Molecules bump into each other. They stick. They form chains of crap and chemical reactions happen. Zzzzzz.

        It’s amazing, but it’s not exactly beyond human understanding as you seem to imply. And it can be observed in a lab or in some cases (observing populations of animals and their offspring’s inheritance of genetics) out in the field.

        It’s crude and simple enough for most of us to understand. The idea that it’s “unnaturally” complex is your opinion and does not count as evidence.

        You dismiss the Miller-Urey experiment yet offer ZERO of your own studies or evidence for this “guided process”.

        Now, where are the studies that prove what you keep saying here?

        • ps Rabbi, I kept calling you Moshe when I should have addressed you by your correct title. I am usually very strict about that. My apologies.

        • Amalie,

          You write that “Molecules bump into each other, they stick, chemical reactions happen”

          This simply is not true. When you closely examine the way the genetic coding in DNA works you will see that it is exactly the opposite. there are 4 bases that make up the code on the DNA double helix: Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine, and Thymine. Although Adenine and Thymine and Cytosine and Guanine always link up with each other horizontally on the DNA chain, there is absolutely no chemical preference at all for the arrangements of the bases vertically. It is these very vertical arrangements of the basis that forms the coding for specific proteins.

          The simple and accurate analogy is magnetic letters on a refrigerator door. the magnet on the back of each letter is equally effective in holding on each letter to the door. However there is absolutely nothing about the magnet, the letters, or the door that would effect a preference for the ARRANGEMENT of particular letters on the door. That is why when you walk in the kitchen and the letters are arranged in the following order: “Honey, don’t snack, we have a big dinner tonite” and you have to decide if this arrangement of letters was the result of your three year old playing in the kitchen or your wife leaving you a message the answer is obvious. This is called “specified information”. DNA is exactly the same. It is the SPECIFIC arrangement of bases that code for SPECIFIC proteins. When the highly complex molecular machinery creates mRNA from a gene it then goes to a ribosome. The ribosome reads the code on the mRNA and links it up with the appropriate tRNA which is carrying the appropriate amino acid to form the protein being manufactured. There is absolutely no chemical or physical preference as to why a particular triplet of bases would code for a particular amino acid. It is CODE. This is why it is possible to store an encyclopedic amount of information in a DNA molecule.

          Another analogy. Let us say there are 10,000 letters on the front page of the Boston Globe. The reason why it is possible to convey so much information is that there is nothing at all about the ink or paper that would create a preference for one particular letter to follow another. If there was you would simply get repetitive patterns that convey nothing. For instance if there was a preference for C to come first with G always being attracted to C and then F, you would end up with a repeating pattern of CGFCGF etc. You could not convey the news.

          In my opinion, there is no reasonable explanation for the fantastic amount of information stored in a bacterium unless the code was arranged by an intelligent being. If you say otherwise, you need to provide a mechanism by which this can happen without guidance. If you wish to say that the letters on the fridge were the result of an unguided process, you have the extraordinarily heavy burden of proof to demonstrate such a thing.
          It is exponentially more diffcult to demonstrate such a phenomena with a bacterium.

          As Dr. paul Davies has written:

          In a living organism we see the power of software, or information processing, refined to an incredible degree…the problem of the origin of life reduces to one of understanding how encoded software emerged spontaneously from hardware. How did it happen? How did nature “go digital?”

          • You are contradicting yourself again with your assertion that life could not have originated without the intervention of a living intelligence.

            In fact nobody “stored information” in bacteria to “help things along” with “IDOL.”

            Information storage is a phenomenon that came after people evolved; it didn’t happen before there were people (other than by analogy).

          • Ah, so you do understand enough to discuss the science! I am glad you are taking some responsibility here. Now folks here can have a real discussion with you about evolution.

            “there is no reasonable explanation for the fantastic amount of information stored in a bacterium unless the code was arranged by an intelligent being”

            I feel like we’re going in circles here, Rabbi. Again: if bacterium are so fantastically complex to we intelligent beings, then explain how an intelligent being could outperform the natural world with all its various potential chemicals and conditions?

            “emerged spontaneously from hardware. How did it happen? How did nature “go digital”

            Again, that is a human construct. Life is not digital. It is organic.

            “If you wish to say that the letters on the fridge were the result of an unguided process, you have the extraordinarily heavy burden of proof to demonstrate such a thing”.

            Silly. Haven’t you heard of hidden video cameras?

            Sadly there was yet again no published evidence of this guided process, Rabbi. Why should anyone believe what you say here?

  • Rabbi Averick,

    I too am an orthodox Jew. The ONLY thing we know (read believe) theologically about the origin of life is that it stems from God. Unless you take the first 30 odd pesukim of Bereishit literally, and it appears you don’t, then we have no claim to an idea how that “origin” occurred.

    Science may or may not discover the definitive answer to that question, however the Torah clearly does not. However, to pin one’s belief on the absence of such evidence is theologically foolhardy. We see increasing evidence of this foolhardiness daily in the ultra-orthodox world, as one Rabbi after another attempts to turn back the hands of time and ignore mountains of proof for evolution by childishly reverting to a literal interpretation of the creation narrative. You are attempting to do the same with the “origin” discussion.

    It’s time we, as orthodox Jews, grew up and realize ala the Ramabam’s “Guide to the Perplexed” that God is not the anthropomorphisized Morgan Freeman-like character our ancestors needed to believe he was. Whatever God is, it’s truly beyond our comprehension and its potential existence in no way negates the possibility that life emerged on this planet (and probably many others) through a “natural” process that was built into the system at the time of the Big Bang.

    And for the record, your tit for tat nastiness was not in-line with someone who’s supposed to be representing Torah values to the world.

    • I am really enjoying this thread, it’s going in the scrapbook.

    • Michael,

      I don’t know who you are or what you believe or don’t believe. If you claim to be an Orthodox Jew, then I assume you are telling the truth.

      I did not in any way address the issue of what the first chapter of Genesis means or doesn’t mean. If you think that God looks like Morgan Freeman or George Burns, that is your problem, not mine. I personally never had to deal with that type of confusion.

      If you think there are mountains of proof for evolution you are certainly entitled to believe it. I also made it very clear that I am not in any way addressing the issue of evolution.

      I find it interesting that the bulk of your post deals with issues that I either did not mention at all, or specifically stated I am not addressing. You are entitled to express your opinion on any subject you want. Please make it clear however that you are expressing you own personal opinion, and that it has nothing to do with what I said. If you think that a naturalistic origin of life is a reasonable proposition, then present your reasons why. Please don’t try to confuse the readers by making it into a “Jewish” cause.

      As far as representing Torah values, again, you are entitled to your opinion, although I obviously disagree.

      • Moshe wrote:
        “I also made it very clear that I am not in any way addressing the issue of evolution.

        I find it interesting that the bulk of your post deals with issues that I either did not mention at all, or specifically stated I am not addressing.”

        Moshe also wrote:
        “Coyne is a fanatical atheist and a fanatical Darwinist. From Coyne’s psychological perspective, it is impossible for there to be flaws in evolutionary theory. It is impossible for any rational person to have doubts about evolutionary theory. The only possible reason for anyone to question Darwinian Evolution would be in order to promote their religious agenda. It’s clear then, that few things could be more threatening than a brilliant agnostic (like Berlinski) raising doubts about Coyne’s dearly held worldview. After all, absent the motivation of a religious agenda, perhaps the reason Berlinski claims there are holes in the theory is because there are holes in the theory. That is a little to much for Dr. Coyne to handle, hence the hysterical pushback.”

        Come on Moshe, we can read, you know.

        • Jp,

          When I said that I do not address the issue of evolution, I mean that I do not weigh in on the scientific debate about the validity or non-validity of neo-darwinian theory.

          What you quoted above has nothing to do with the theory itself, it has to do with Coyne’s approach to the subject. As far as I’m concerned, Coyne does not act like a man who has full confidence in what he is asserting.
          In other words “The Dr. doth protest too much”

          • No, I think he’s quite genuine in stating that anyone who doubts that evolution works, given that it’s been verified thousands of times, is an idiot.

            I’m sure it’s as exasperating to him as if he were surrounded by people who denied the existence of some other commonly observed process, like saying gravity didn’t exist, it’s just the spirit of the earth calling Her children home.

            Why shouldn’t he mock people who think that fairy stories should be believed in preference to observed reality.

          • And to address my other point, would you call anyone who though it was impossible for any rational person to deny gravity a “fanatical gravitationist”?

            Of course you wouldn’t, and to say that you’re making no statement about evolution by using such loaded language is either insincere, or you have a truly monumental lack of self-awareness.

  • So you are basing your belief in the existence of God on the premise that the origins of life can not be explained by natural forces? Don’t you think that a little dangerous? So what would happen if two/three years from now someone does happen to come up with brilliant explanation or some lab scientist creates the first artificial living organism. Are you going to concede that God doesn’t exist then. As Augustine of Hippo once said “miracles happen not in opposition of Nature, but in opposition to what we know about Nature”

    For more, see:
    http://www.akhnatonsjournal.org/2011/09/god-science-and-joy-of-pattern.html

    • DM Mulvihill,

      It’s only dangerous if your agenda is something other than the truth. If it turns out I am wrong, well Salvage and some of his friends will probably throw a big party, and I hope I’ll be invited.

      In any case, what I find fascinating is that you are warning me of the danger if it turns out at some as yet unknown time in the future (perhaps never) a naturalistic origin of life is discovered. What about the atheistic/materialistic scientists right now who have no evidence at all that life could come from non-life. How should they feel? Right now they are the ones with the problem, not me.

      by the way, if scientists create life in the lab, it would have no bearing at all on the question. Actually that’s not true. It would mean that brilliant scientists using all the ingenuity at their disposal with the best technology are able to create life. That’s called Intelligent Design.

      • Simple question, Rabbi Averick:

        What would you consider not only compelling but also sufficient adequate evidence to convince you that your assertion regarding the origins of life was wrong?

        A precise, specific response–in the form of a list os possibilities, perhaps, would be appreciated.

      • >That’s called Intelligent Design.

        No, if it happens it’s called science, we already have a name for it, don’t even have to capitalize it, thank you.

        There is nothing in nature that suggests anything other than natural selection as the “designer”. From parasites to parakeets it’s bits of DNA finding a way to reproduce in its respective environment be it intestinal track or Australian outback.

        You are aware that over 99% of the species that have ever lived on this planet are extinct right? Does that sound like the work of an intelligent designer? Not even Microsoft would tolerate a failure rate like that.

        • Salvage,
          “You are aware that over 99% of the species that have ever lived on this planet are extinct right?”

          Sounds like

          Genesis 6:17 17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die

          World wide deposits of plants and animals suddenly buried and preserved as fossils are evidence of a world wide flood that killed 99% of the species that ever lived.

          • Er no Luke, not at all.

            The mass extinctions I’m referring to did not take place all at once but rather over the last 3 billion years or so and not 40 days and nights as the easily debunked myth you’re refereeing to would have you believe.

            Some of them came from an environmental catastrophe as in the case of the dinosaurs but others came from a gradual shift in the environment like the pre-historic woolly critters of North America.

            Fossils are not all found at the same layer but rather are spread out over different geological eras.

            So no, your genocidal crazy nuttier than a squirrel’s safety deposit box had no more to do with whacking whole species than it did in making them.

      • Whoa, Moshe, you’re trying to pull a fast one there. Scientists, engineers, etc. exhibit natural intelligent design capabilities. And that bears no resemblance to your religious notion of a “SUPERNATURAL INTELLIGENT DESIGNER”!

        You are trying to confound us with equivocation.

        • Steve,

          I’m sorry but as usual I am unable to understand your line of thinking.

          • How do you imagine that the fact that bicycles wouldn’t exist if people didn’t design and make them somehow supports your believe in a not-of-this-world “God the Creator”?

            People can design things because they are alive. How do you propose to make the leap (other than by blind faith) from that fact to the supernatural feat of “Intelligent Design Of Life (IDOL)”? There is no possible connection or logic to your leap. Your “IDOL” notion is a self-contradiction, to say the least.

          • Keep trying. Don’t consider yourself hopeless!

          • Simple: the real world is here; the “supernatural world” (the not-of-this-universe illusory Otherworld of the theist) is nowhere.

  • What a contrast between Jerry Coyne and Doctor Berlinski. We have Jerry Coyne’s unfortunate tendency to unload personal attacks at his opponents as opposed to Doctor Berlinski’s erudite condescension and his own conviction as to his own self importance. Though we may not really understand the competing arguments how can we not help but be truly impressed by Doctor Berlinski.
    I will warn you though, if you do not want to be disappointed with your choice, do not make any effort to find out whether the statements presented were true. With any research at all it will become quite apparent that Jerry Coyne really knows his stuff. If we listen to him we will get a true understanding into biology. As to the good doctor, God only knows what he is up to.

    • I think it’s Moshe’s contention that tone is more important than truth. It’s a common refrain of people who don’t have truth in their corner.

      Moshe, how did your posited supernatural entity, having designed the bacterium, reach into our universe and arrange the requisite atoms? If you can not answer that, then you are a moron.

  • Moshe, I asked you below to link some examples of Berlinski’s writing that you find particularly magnificent. I see you’ve got involved in some name-calling replies since then, but chosen not to reply to my requests.

    Firstly, I conclude from that that you’re more interested in generating heat than light.

    Alternatively, perhaps you don’t have an example of Berlinski’s writing that is so magnificent because there aren’t any.

    Go on, prove me wrong. Nail your colours the mast and link something magnificent of Berlinski’s so we can see what you think qualifies as magnificent.

    • Jp,
      Read the reviews of the books that he wrote. If you think that Berlinski is a poor writer, then you are entitled to your opinion.

      • Moshe, if Berlinski is a magnificent writer, with whom you are very familiar, surely it’s not too hard to link to a passage of writing of his that you admire.

        I’ve done better than read reviews, I’ve read his writing. Pieces he chose himself for his own website. I’ve posted quotations here, and explained why I think the writing, while competent, is nothing special.

        Perhaps you could post something that would change my mind, or indeed you could argue the magnificence of the passages I posted here. That could be fun. Why don’t you do that?

      • Anyway, I got bored waiting for you to reply, Moshe, so I went and read some reviews of Berlinski’s writing on Amazon. I avoided the books on atheism, as people tend to rate them high or low for political reasons, so I picked the book with the most reviews: A Tour of the Calculus. This is right up Berlinski’s alley, so if he’s brilliant and capable of good writing, it should be on this subject. The book gets mediocre reviews, with slightly more 1-star reviews than 5-star. On the other hand, the Hitchens book I’m currently reading gets 24 5-star reviews and only 1 1-star.

        Here’s the “most helpful” review:
        http://www.amazon.com/review/R26WM1BN54D0OJ/ref=cm_cr_dp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0679747885&nodeID=283155&tag=&linkCode=

        Seems not everyone thinks Berlinski’s writing, even when he’s not wading into contentious subjects.

  • The disingenuous and misleading quote of Szostak looks homologous to (or at the very least convergent with) that most famous and oft-abused of selective quotations, when creationists quote Darwin: To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.

    It is no more intellectually honest, and appears no better founded.

    • Dear Commenters,

      In light of the controversy surrounding my use of the citation by Dr. Jack Szostak, which even elicited a response from his wife (I apologized to her if it was in any way misleading), I will list here a number of other prominent scientists including other Nobel Laureates who have said almost the exact same thing as Jack Szostak. None of them support ID Theory and none of them, including Szostak have any idea how life began on earth. I do not cite them to imply they support my position. I cite them to demonstrate that even those experts who disagree with my position agree that nobody has a “clue” how life began. As I pointed out in my last article, the million dollar prize and the new fifty thousand dollar prize are still unclaimed:

      Dr. Freeman Dyson: First of all I wanted to talk a bit about origin of life…that has been a hobby of mine. We’re all equally ignorant as far as I can see. That’s why somebody like me can pretend to be an expert.

      Dr. Milton Wainwright: The reality is that despite the egos of some, the existence of life remains a mystery. It is not merely that biology is scratching the surface of this enigma, the reality is that we have yet to see the surface!

      Dr.Stanley Miller and Dr. Leslie Orgel: It must be admitted from the beginning that we do not know how life began.

      Dr. Lynn Margulis: How matter in a bath of energy, or how energy in a brew of matter, first accomplished the feat of life is not known…how did the first bacterium originate? Again, no one knows

      Dr. Ken Nealson: Nobody understands the origin of life, if they say they do they are probably trying to fool you.

      Dr. George Whitesides: Most chemists believe as I do, that life emerged spontaneously from mixtures of molecules in the prebiotic Earth. How? I have no idea. On the basis of all the chemistry I know, it seems to me astonishingly improbable.

      Dr. Robert Shapiro: The weakest point is our understanding of the origin of life. No evidence remains that we know of to explain the steps that started life here, billions of years ago.

      Dr. Paul Davies: many investigators feel uneasy about stating in public that the origin of life is a mystery, even though behind closed doors they freely admit they are baffled

      How? We haven’t a clue

      Dr’s Stochel, Brindel, Macyk, Stasicka, Szacilowski: The origin of life remains one of the most vexing issues in chemistry, biology, ad philosophy…numerous theories tackle the origin of life, but there is no direct evidence supporting any of them.

      Dr. Christopher McKay: The origin of life remains a scientific mystery…we do not know how life originated on Earth

      Dr. Gerald Joyce and Dr. Michael Robertson: the concept of the RNA World has been a milestone in the scientific study of life’s origins. While this concept does not explain how life originated, it has helped guide scientific thinking and has served to focus experimental efforts.

      Dr’s E. Ben Jacob, Y. Aharonov, Y.Shapira: Bacteria being the first form of life on earth, had to devise ways to synthesize the complex organic molecules required for life…3.5 billion years have passed and the existence of higher organisms depends on this unique bacterial know how. Even for us with all our scientific knowledge and technological advances, the ways in which bacteria solved this fundamental requirement for life are still a mystery

      Dr. Harold P. Klein: The simplest bacterium is so damn complicated from the point of view of a chemist that it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened.

      Dr. Andrew Scott: IT IS THIS COMBATIVE ATMOSPHERE WHICH SOMETIMES ENCOURAGES SCIENTISTS WRITING AND SPEAKING ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF LIFE TO BECOME AS DOGMATIC AND BIGOTED AS THE CREATIONIST OPPONENTS THEY SO DESPISE

      Nature.com blogs – Anna Kushnir 3/9/2009:The Origin of Life Initiative and the Harvard Alummni Ass. hosted a day long symposium …focused on discussing ..what is life and how did it begin? [Among the speakers were] J. Craig Venter..jack Szostak..George Whitesides…George Church…It may be difficult to believe, but there was a common theme to this seeming cacophony of scientific expertise and discovery. The theme was “we just don’t know.” No one knows how life began – or even how to define life if you want to get all philosophical about it.

      I hope this clarifies the issue.

      • Rabbi,

        You said, “The theme was “we just don’t know.” No one knows how life began – or even how to define life if you want to get all philosophical about it.” Isn’t this also disingenuous? Doesn’t the Hebrew Bible clearly say that God did it? Moreover, if you believe that (which I presume you do) then aren’t you say that you indeed “know” how life came into being? So what you are really saying is that, “You scientists are really, really smart and you can’t answer ‘how’ life started; therefore, I win even though I admit to not having a complete grasp on the subject matter.”

        Don’t you find this a little arrogant? Can you see that you claim to know something that scientists freely admit they don’t know, but are extremely close to discovering? What will you do when this gap closes? Tell us, “God did it?” I hope you have a pretty large shoe-horn to make him fit.

        • Chriskg,

          first of all, I disagree that scientists “are extremely close” to discovering how life began. It is my contention that they have gone backwards since the famous STanley Miller experiment 68 years ago. The challenge has become much greater, not less. The simplest bacterium is even more complex than was imagined 65 years ago.

          Second, I have said this many times and I will say it again to you. There are only two possibilities for explaining the origin of life. A creator outside of the physical universe, or a naturalistic process. If it is not one, it is the other. To me it is obvious that an unguided origin of life is absurd. It is as absurd as an unguided origin of cave drawings in France. Therefore, the origin of life is an intelligent creator outside of nature.(If the creator is physical, like advanced aliens, you have only pushed the question back a step)

          As it turns out, the complete bafflement of scientists as to how life began, as Dr. George Whitesides said, “On the basis of all chemistry I know, it seems astonishingly improbable.”, seems to support my contention, that no one will ever find an answer. At the very least, at this point my viewpoint has not been contradicted in any way. Are you prepared to accept the reasonable possibility that scientists will never find an answer? If you are certain they will, please tell me how you are certain? For arguments sake with you, I am prepared to leave it a toss up.

          • In attempting to parry suggestions that you might be quote-mining you actually manage to repeat the offence and dig an even deeper hole.

            You have omitted the previous sentence from Dr George Whitesides which means the full quotation should read: “Most chemists believe as I do that life emerged spontaneously from mixtures of chemicals in the prebiotic earth. On the basis of all chemistry I know, it seems astonishingly improbable.”

            This totally changes the implications of what he is saying. Even improbable events become almost inevitable given sufficient time & attempts.

            Are you deliberately lying or just cut-and-pasting quote-mined quotations from a creationist web-site?

        • Rabbi,

          First, thank you for responding. I’m not trying to be a polemicist, but I am trying to understand the contradictions within your position. You may not agree that we “are extremely close” to determining the nature of the spark of life within the confines of a bio-chemical process on the primordial Earth, but frankly that is a “god of the gaps” type of a argument. When a scientists says, “I have no idea how life started” they are making a statement regarding the detailed processes. This is not a general claim of ignorance, as I fear you are interpreting it. In other words, they know it happened and it was bio-chemical. The “how” still eludes them, but it is a testable process.

          You state, “There are only two possibilities for explaining the origin of life. A creator outside of the physical universe, or a naturalistic process. If it is not one, it is the other.” No. This is absolutely false. I believe you have engaged in what is termed a “false dichotomy.” Simply because you cannot conceive of another option it does not mean that there are only two choices. Whereas I doubt there is a supernatural explanation, I do think there could be numerous means by which life could have spawned through bio-chemical processes. Again, testing will resolve this issue, not guessing about something outside of nature. Sometimes it okay to say, “I don’t know, but we are looking.” Stating that a deity did it stops inquiry, does not address the “how” questions, and only prolongs the ignorance of those proclaiming it because they then must show what produced that deity.

          You also say, “To me it is obvious that an unguided origin of life is absurd.” Sadly, I hear this too often. It is fallacious in the highest degree to say this. I know you’ve read about the process (which is anything but unguided) called natural selection. Why wouldn’t the same environmental pressures that apply to life also apply to its origin? I suppose the biggest problem I have with your line reasoning is that on one hand you say that no one knows how life began, but then you claim that you do. How is it that you can possibly know more about a “an intelligent creator [that exists] outside of nature” than the rest of the world. By your own definition, how do propose we can verify something is ‘outside of nature’, yet also has the ability to personally intervene in natural events? How can it be both, and how is that more likely than a chemical reaction already shown to create simple proteins? The later is testable. The former is not.

          So, to answer your question, I am prepared to live without knowing “How” life began. It is a curious question to me because we know that it did begin so the chances of life emerging appear to be pretty good. Stating that you don’t know something is “Okay”, because it provides a course of inquiry to investigate. Pushing that investigation into the realm of the supernatural answers nothing. The reason I am certain this question will eventually be answered is because it is being studied, investigated and tested. Are there any religious groups making testable predictions about the origins of life? No? Why?

          I therefore would like you to answer one question. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that in ten years a self-replicating, multi-cellular life form is created in a laboratory from inorganic material thereby proving that life can begin from non-life, would you then admit that a god is not necessary? Or, as I suspect, will you claim “that was the process he used”?

          Thank you,
          Chris

          • Chris,
            You write:
            “There are only two possibilities for explaining the origin of life. A creator outside of the physical universe, or a naturalistic process. If it is not one, it is the other.” No. This is absolutely false. I believe you have engaged in what is termed a “false dichotomy.” Simply because you cannot conceive of another option it does not mean that there are only two choices”

            If what you said was true, then we should shut down every court system in the world. It is always POSSIBLE that there are other options that we don’t know about. Three men go into a sealed bank vault with only one entrance. A shot rings out and one man is dead of a gunshot wound. The gun is on the floor. Assuming we can rule out suicide (the man is tied with his hands behind his back) there are only two possibilities: Man A did it or Man B did it. You would say: Just because you cannot think of any other options does not mean there are not any other options. This is called proposing UNREASONABLE DOUBT. In a criminal trial one must bring evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the man is guilty. The reason why is because you can ALWAYS raise unreasonable doubt, for example: Maybe there is something we haven’t thought of. Maybe, Maybe, Maybe, ther are an infinite amount of maybe’s. I do not have to consider unreasonable doubt. Unless you come up with a reasonable third option, then it is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that there are only two options. A. a naturalistic process or B. or creator outside of the physical universe. If it is not one it must be the other.

            AS far as I’m concerned it is clearly implausible that life could emerge through an unguided process, therefore the other option is the only reasonable answer.

            You ask me the following:

            ” therefore would like you to answer one question. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that in ten years a self-replicating, multi-cellular life form is created in a laboratory from inorganic material thereby proving that life can begin from non-life, would you then admit that a god is not necessary? Or, as I suspect, will you claim “that was the process he used”?”

            The fact that the most brilliant scientists in the world building on the knowledge and ingenuity of thousands of other researchers before them, using the most technologically advanced laboratory equipment could manufacture (in effect: reverse engineer) a living bacterium would prove one thing: You need intelligent designers to construct life. All it would do is beg the question: Which brilliant designers built the original bacterium? Who knew about digital information 3.8 billion years ago that put together the digitally encoded genetic code of the first bacterium?

            What you need to demonstrate is not that intelligent agents can create life – we already know that intelligent agents can do all kinds of fantastic things. We already know that intelligent agents can construct functionally complex machinery and assemble specified information – What you need to demonstrate is that there is a plausible, empirically demonstrable, testable and falsifiable NATURALISTIC, UNGUIDED process that could go from life to non-life.

            If my answer is unclear, I am happy to reclarify. Look forward to your reply.

      • Rabbi, there’s no polite way to put this.

        You are a liar.

        Each and every one of those quotes you offers comes in the general form of, “While it might seem at first blush that there’s no way that ____ could possibly have happened naturally, closer inspection reveals how it actually (could|did) happen. Here’s how….”

        And all you quote is, “There’s no way that ____ could possibly have happened naturally.”

        That is a lie, and it is the most transparent and desperate possible of lies.

        You really ought to be ashamed of yourself for stopping to such contemptible and bad rhetoric.

        If you have a problem with the facts or the conclusions presented by the honest people whose words you distort to your own gain, present countering facts or faults in their logic or methods. Don’t twist their words to mean the opposite of what they do.

        Sincerely,

        b&

        • Ben Goren,

          All you did was make accusations without backing any of them up. I’m not impressed.

          • Rabbi,

            It has been repeatedly explained to you in this very thread, including by the wife of one of the researchers whose work you lie about, exactly how you have twisted their words into the opposite meaning.

            But take the very first quote in your fresh batch of lies above, the one from Freeman Dyson. (It is typical of the rest and more than ample to prove yet again that you are a shameless liar.) What immediately follows the portion you quote-mined is a long discourse in which Dyson explains his theory of abiogenesis in layman’s terms:

            “I was struck by the picture of early life that appeared in Carl Woese’s article three years ago. He had this picture of the pre-Darwinian epoch when genetic information was open source and everything was shared between different organisms. That picture fits very nicely with my speculative version of origin of life.

            “The essential idea is that you separate metabolism from replication. We know modern life has both metabolism and replication, but they’re carried out by separate groups of molecules. Metabolism is carried out by proteins and all kinds of small molecules, and replication is carried out by DNA and RNA. That maybe is a clue to the fact that they started out separate rather than together. So my version of the origin of life is it started with metabolism only.

            “You had what I call the garbage bag model. The early cells were just little bags of some kind of cell membrane, which might have [....]”

            And he’s only just getting warmed up there.

            Clearly, you are lying when you mischaracterize Dyson’s position as one of utter ignorance. He actually knows a great deal about abiogenesis — a surprising amount, indeed, considering he’s a theoretical physicist and mathematician, not an evolutionary biochemist. His introductory statement was clearly meant as a disclaimer that this is still a work in progress — much as the search for the Higgs is still a work in progress.

            We don’t have the details worked out yet in either case, true. But we *have* ruled out huge swaths of possible answers, and the one proposed in your ancient third-rate Mediterranean grimoire was one of the first failed hypotheses to get tossed on the cutting-room floor.

            Cheers,

            b&

        • Ben,

          Freeman Dyson may very well have some speculative ideas up his sleeve along with Jack Szostak and Richard Dawkins and Robert Shapiro. Shapiro’s speculative theory was the “Metabolism First” theory, Dr. Leslie Orgel said it was based on “if pigs could fly chemistry”. Many scientists are abandoning the RNA World theory because there are so many seemingly insurmountable difficulties in proposing that RNA formed naturally on the prebiotic earth. Speculation is exactly that, it is speculation. It is proposing ideas with no evidence to back them up. Freeman Dyson admits that he is ignorant about the origin of life and then speculates about what might have been. Speculation is not science. Freeman Dyson knows the difference. You do not.

          • Normann Wheland

            Moshe said: “Speculation is exactly that, it is speculation. It is proposing ideas with no evidence to back them up.”

            Well that raises the inevitable question: Moshe, why do criticize scientific “speculation” (maybe hypothesis-building would be a better term) when you, yourself persist in the worst form of theistic-existence speculation?

        • Ben,

          Jerry Coyne admitted it himself. He knows that nobody has any real idea how life began.
          Read what he said at the end of my article. don’t you think if there was some kind of real evidence for one of the theories floating around, Jerry Coyne would be screaming it from the rooftops?

          “Nope, we don’t yet understand how life originated on Earth, but we have good leads, and abiogenesis is a thriving field. And we may never understand how life originated on Earth, because the traces of early life have vanished…I’m pretty confident that within, say, 50 years we’ll be able to create life in a laboratory under the conditions of primitive Earth, but that, too, won’t tell us exactly how it did happen—only that it could.”
          Instead, that’s the best he can do.
          Don’t you think that if Richard Dawkins knew how life started he would have written a book about it. It is the biggest problem with atheistic science today. he also admits that no one knows. Jack Szostak does not know either. That’s why his wife is on this post and not him. if he knows, why doesn’t he just get up and announce it and claim his Nobel Prize for finding the origin of life.
          You are completely off in your understanding of the true state of origin of life research.

          • Rabbi,

            I know not what Socrates ate the morning of his tenth birthday, yet I know it was neither ambrosia nor manna nor flan.

            You are lying when you say that scientists have no clue what Socrates ate that morning, and your lie becomes laughable when you use this ignorance you have invented for them to insist that we consider the possibility that the young Socrates ate manna.

            I’ll grant you that I’m not an evolutionary biochemist — but, then again, neither are you.

            What I share with the evolutionary biochemists that you do not is honesty and commitment to the truth. And it is true that we don’t know precisely what Socrates ate that morning, but it is a lie that you continue to attempt to spread that we haven’t the foggiest clue what he ate — when, in reality, we’ve narrowed it down to a menu about as long as you’d find at the local café.

            Any sane, rational, honest person would be astonished at the forensic abilities of researchers to learn so much about an event so far in the long-forgotten past. Yet you, on the other hand, are childishly blathering, “Ooga-booga! You can’t say if he ate fish or meat with his bread, therefore you must respect my conviction that he ate manna!”

            The reason for your love of calumny ultimately matters not; the end result is the same. While others are attempting serious, rational inquiry into some of the most fascinating questions ever contemplated, you are doing your damnedest to derail the conversation into bizarre faery-tale fantasy not even up to the standards of morning children’s cartoons — let alone Harry Potter.

            Cheers,

            b&

        • Ben,

          Frankly, I don’t care what Socrates ate or didn’t eat for breakfast. I also am not interested in your hysterical ranting. Why don’t you get together with Salvage, I’m sure the two of you would have a grand time.

          • Moshe, you do realise that what you called “hysterical ranting” was actually an exact parallel to your own argument, don’t you.

            I reckon Socrates had barbecued unicorn legs with his bread on his tenth birthday. You can’t prove what he had, so it must have been unicorn.

          • Hysterical ranting? Moshe I haven’t ranted a thing, no one here has, Ben was making a clear point and rather than address that you attempt to bat it away with faux indignation.

            Do you think this hyperbole helps you in any way?

            His point is the same one I and countless others have made but your refuse to address.

            The god you believe in is the one in your Torah, you cannot separate one from the other no matter how hard you try. I know you don’t want to talk about the business with the talking snake, magic fruits, six day universe but that doesn’t mean it stops being the literal foundation of all your beliefs in regards to the origin of life and evolution. It’s like you’re trying to build a skyscraper on landfill of nothing but Jell-O; each time you add a story it drops a floor.

      • Why do you think that these brilliant minds, when they say that nobody knows, do not include you in that?

        • JP,

          Are you prepared to consider the possibility of a Creator? If not, why? Most of these scientists simply reject the notion a priori. This is narrow mindedness. On the other hand, maybe I am just more brilliant than the rest of them.

          • It is “narrow mindedness” to be prepared to “consider the possibility of a Creator.” The serious-minded approach to knowledge is one which is prepared to deal only and always with facts — with a strong determination never to substitute fantasy (i.e., the supernatural) for rationality/realism.

          • Yep, I’m prepared to consider the possibility of a creator, or of supernatural entities or processes of any kind. All someone has to do is credibly demonstrate such a thing’s existence, and ability to interact with our universe.

            It’s true I’m not holding my breath on that happening any time soon, but I wouldn’t reject such things after they’d been shown to exist and act the way people propose.

      • Come on, nobody with a lick of sense claims to know how life originated. The problem, in the context of this discussion, is that it is absurd to claim that not knowing this somehow proves that life is unnatural and, therefore, God exists.

        • Steve,
          You don’t seem to have grasped that there are only two possibilities. If its not one its the other.

          • “You don’t seem to have grasped that there are only two possibilities. If its not one its the other.”
            This type of ‘logic’ is so warped, it can only have sprouted from a religious mind. The minds thatare content with not knowing.

          • Moshe,

            You don’t seem to have grasped that the “supernatural” is not a possibility. You keep trying to imagine that it could be a possibility, but it’s not — and you have no argument that it is.

            EVERYTHING is natural; there is nothing that isn’t.

            Even bicycles are made of 100% natural ingredients through 100% natural processes.

            Your “God the Creator” (with those alleged “IDOL” capabilities) is 100% imaginary, a product of sheer blind faith (not reason, not logic, not evidence, not reality).

          • At 8:31 you claim there are only two possibilities. Then at 11:34 you wrote a long response to Chris about how wrong he is for invoking a false dichotomy, how wrong he is for claiming there are only two possibilities.

            Which is it? Can you clarify whether you think the current lack of a fully developed natural explanation implies God (i.e. you think there’s a dichotomy), or doesn’t (you think there’s more than two possible explanations). Because you seem to have taken both positions in an approximately 3-hour period.

      • We don’t know how life began, but life can go on, anyway. Believing in the supernatural just gets in the way; a realistic approach to life, on the other hand, makes real sense.

      • So all those proves that intelligent design is correct? You’re not serious, are you?

      • Arguments from authority are no more substitutes for evidence than personal anecdote.

        A good thing, too, since statistically there are an overwhelming percentage of the world’s leading natural scientists who disagree with you.

  • Moshe,

    You do seem to have this bee in your bonnet about how life is just plain unnatural, in spite of the fact that there is no way in the world to make a case that it is not perfectly natural. It’s as if you like to look around the world, but instead of seeing just what is there, you insist of believing you can see things that are not there, i.e., that are not of this world.

  • Program: (of the Discovery Institute)

    Discovery Institute is an inter-disciplinary community of scholars and policy advocates dedicated to the reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued. Discovery Institute has special concern for the role that science and technology play in our culture and how they can advance free markets, illuminate public policy and support the theistic foundations of the West.

    http://www.discovery.org/about.php

    (Interesting that one cannot cut and paste from the referenced site)

    Rabbi, please explain to all of us how an individual who subscribes to the above can, in seriousness, be said to be a “true freethinker”.

    • Brad W,

      Don’t really understand your point. Perhaps if you read Berlinski’s book “The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions” you would begin to understand where he is coming from. Berlinski is an agnostic who is not convinced by ID to believe in God (believe me, I’ve argued the point with him enough) and yet is very aware of the arrogance of many atheistic/materialistic scientists and how it distorts their objectivity.

      I don’t think it’s possible to state with certainty that anyone is totally objective, the only thing we can do is to increase our determination to be objective. As mathematician John Lennox said: We all have our prejudices, let’s put our prejudices on the table and try to figure out the truth. In my opinion, people like Coyne are part of the problem, not the solution.

      • Are the scientists you accuse of arrogance the same scientists who you quote, at length, saying they don’t know the mechanism through which life arose?

        • JP,

          Your point is well taken. They are honest enough to admit that they don’t know how life began. Many of them are also honest enough to admit that they are completely baffled. They are not honest enough to admit that ID then becomes a reasonable possibility. The few who do are attacked viciously. If someone like myself brings up the question, I am accused of being anti-science. That is where you see the arrogance.

          • What’s dishonest about discounting ID, an assertion for which not a scrap of evidence exists. There’s no evidence for the existence of the postulated agent, and no evidence for the existence of the postulated mechanism. In fact, there isn’t even as much as a postulated mechanism for ID.

            As such, ID is not a theory. It’s a hypothesis that’s contrary to the established principles of reality. In other words, it’s indistinguishable from fiction. If I claim that the Flying Spaghetti Monster sneezed life into existence from outside the universe, are scientists arrogant for not considering my theory? How is my assertion different from ID at a logical level?

  • You write: “While Coyne’s inability to control his adolescent impulses to crudely insult his opponent – so much so that it leaves us wondering if he simply forgot to take his medication …”

    Pot. Kettle. Black. The difference is that while Coyne writes intelligently and honestly about evolution and its ignorant, lying, and distorting deniers, you, in this article demonstrably one of those fanatics “who is so emotionally and psychologically bound up with their beliefs, that they are incapable of considering another point of view,” don’t.

    I did find one true statement by you: “I am not qualified to pass judgement in an argument about Evolutionary biology.” It’s a pity that doesn’t stop you from shaming yourself with ignorant tirades against so-called “atheistic Darwinism.”

    • Daniel Murphy,

      Please don’t forget that Coyne is the one who started this whole thing, not me. It was his crude and vulgar comments not only about Dr. Berlinski, but about myself and Rabbi Jacobs also that motivated me to respond.

      I have never questioned Jerry Coyne’s scientific credentials, that is not the issue on the table. It is his logic and tone that are being discussed. I don’t comment on the scientific aspects of evolution because I don’t feel qualified. However, I have complete confidence in my qualifications to comment and even “pass judgement” on the philosophical and moral implications of an atheistic/Darwinian worldview.

      I don’t feel I shame myself at all when I discuss the moral implication of Darwinism. Perhaps you should be ashamed of promoting the worldview of atheistic philosopher Miohael Ruse when he writes that morality is an illusion put into your genes by evolution and that objectively speaking there is no reason not to rape, pillage and murder like a Roman legionnaire. It would seem to me that such a worldview is worthy of a good tirade.

      • Normann Wheland

        Here we go again! Another straw man construct.

        Moshe, why don’t you enlighten us as to what, exactly, your definition of “atheistic Darwinism” is?

      • Oh, look, Moshe’s changing the subject again. You mad, Moshe?

        You’re misrepresenting Ruse, again, by glossing over the fact that Ruse doesn’t believe that rape is objectively wrong not because he thinks that you can rape at will, but because Ruse doesn’t believe in objective truths. Ruse explains why he thinks that the idea that rape is wrong seems objective to us – on the grounds that our subjective perceptions are grounded in a common biology that we can not deny or escape.

        You can read this yourself:
        http://books.google.com.au/books?id=XQqBP5trqCIC&lpg=PA506&ots=WKkGl_QcDC&dq=michael%20ruse%20morality%20rape&pg=PA507#v=onepage&q=michael%20ruse%20morality%20rape&f=false
        (read the next two pages or so).

        Ruse explicitly says that we are therefore NOT free to rape at will, and so when you quote him as denying absolute moral truths, but leave out the context that Ruse nevertheless believes there are hard biological imperatives that perform the same function, you’re quote mining to misrepresent his position. In the link I posted, Ruse explicitly warns against drawing the conclusion that you do on the grounds that it is not accurate. As such, your approach is deeply dishonest.

        You got all sniffy in a previous comment that people accused you of quote-mining without giving examples. Here’s an example.

        • JP,

          You can do as complex a philosophical dance as you like. If in objective reality there is no reason not to rape, it means that the only reason not to rape is subjective. In other words, if it does not suit me to rape, for whatever the reason, then I wont. If it does suit me to rape, for whatever the reason, then I will. Once objective truth and morality are out the window, frankly, I don’t give a damn what Michael Ruse subjectively feels or doesnt feel. In a world of subjectivity, I am the subject, not Michael Ruse. If you want to submit your will to the personal fancies of Michael Ruse, then that is your subjective decision. If I was an atheist, I don’t him or anyone else to make my decisions for me. I will make them myself, and I will decide what pleases me, not you, not Michael ruse and not Richard Dawkins.

          • Did you bother to read what I posted? Did you comprehend it? Can you prove that by summarising Ruse’s argument?

            Because at the moment, you’re just misrepresenting it and attacking your strawman version of it, and it’s not remotely convincing.

      • I’m sorry, is that a direct quote from Ruse? Can you cite your source? Of course humans are not cockroaches. We all evolved in our respective ecoystems. All of us have different ways of viewing the world and the thing to take away from this is, science is objective, not subjective, and it must be seperate from human emotion.

      • If we do have some “philosophical and moral implications of an atheistic/Darwinian worldview,” then the basic one would be that morality should be about real life, rather than representing blind faith in something not of this world.

        An unnatural morality should be avoided like the plague.

  • Re: the ‘argument’ about evolution (this just in: there isn’t one):

    “I think that Dr. Coyne is qualified to present a case and I think that Dr. Berlinski is quite qualified to present a case.”

    Jerry Coyne = professor, evolutionary biologist with a special remit in genetics and speciation.

    David Berlinski = (according to Wikipedia) “an American educator and author of several books on mathematics.”

    I would suggest your idea of ‘qualified’ needs something of an overhaul.

    • Steve Payne,

      If you want to disqualify Berlinski as an expert witness on evolution, be my guest. However, I am suspicious when anyone makes major policy decisions based on Wikipedia.
      I use it to get someone’s birtdate and maybe where they went to school. More than that…..?

      Someone actually put my rebuttal of the Euthyphro Argument on Wikipedia and they clearly misrepresented what I was saying. I do not believe they did this intentionally, but let’s face it, you’ve got to take anything substantive on Wikipedia with a grain of salt.

      • Scientific truth is not determined by the testimony of “expert witnesses”.

        When it comes to claiming, “I don’t consider existing evidence of life emerging by natural causes, therefore GodDidIt,” consider the following:

        While absence of evidence (in this case, for a “god” being the cause for the emergence of life) may not be sufficient evidence of absence, absence of evidence is certainly not proof of presence, as your argument seems fundamentally to claim.

      • Normann Wheland

        Besides Moshe’s commission of the fallacy of composition in his over-generalized condemnation of Wikipedia, just for funsies, I searched Wikipedia for “Moshe Averick” and got the following response:

        “[...]

        Did you mean: moose averback

        [...]”

        What a hoot! Now we know why he’s so down on Wikipedia.

        Try it yourselves at:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special%3ASearch&search=moshe+averick&fulltext=Search&ns0=1&profile=advanced

        But, back to business: Moshe, please be so kind as to direct us to the specific Wikipedia article where your self-proclaimed “rebuttal” to the Euthyphro Dilemma is expounded.

  • “I leave the argument about evolution to people who understand it much better than myself.”

    Erm, no … apparently that’s exactly what you don’t do.

  • “It’s the same reason why if the SETI scientists received morse code transmissions from outer space that that they would not go searching for naturalistic processes that would account for them, but would immediately proclaim that there is life on other planets,…”

    We have all been surrounded by life all our lives. It’s absurd to feel that somehow it’s all unnatural. Why ignore reality?

    • Steve Payne,

      Again,I point out that there is a universe of difference between Darwinian Evolution and Origin of Life. They are two completely different fields of study. I almost never comment about evolution, I only discuss Origin of Life. Darwinian evolution is more about how the plumbing works, origin of life is trying to understand how the plumbing got there in the first place. Scientists, generally speaking, do very well at explaining how the plumbing works, they know almost nothing about where it came from in the first place.

      • It came from a chain of amino acids created by nonorganic molecules under electrified conditions. Okay? Okay.

      • Even if what you say were true, rejecting scientific conclusions about the origins of life because, you claim, evidence is utterly lacking to support those conclusions, one cannot help but ask:

        Since you clearly value empirical evidence as the basis for gaining knowledge about the natural world—where is the evidence for a non-natural emergence of life?

        Can you provide one, single, solitary piece of evidence in support of *your* claim?

        • “… where is the evidence for a non-natural emergence of life?”

          Naturally, there cannot be any such “evidence”, of course.

          Non-nature is what isn’t. You can’t get there from here. That is, there’s no “there” there.

    • Steve Stoddard,

      I cannot respond to you because I do not understand what you are talking about. Even Dr. David Deamer understands that one cannot ignore the ID argument and that it must be answered and responded to on its own terms. You seem to feel it can be ignored. I am at a complete loss to understand your position.

      • “the ID argument” is just “creationism”. It’s not an argument, it’s the same thing rebranded. We’ve seen the Wedge Document, we’ve seen the testimony and the judge’s opinion from the Dover trial.

        Since obviously you would not write a simple, obvious and blatant lie here, it must be the case that you have not read any of these documents. I most strongly urge you to do so.

        • David Gerard,

          Please see my article on this site entitled
          “The Constitution of the US -RIP”
          In my opinion, the judge in the Dover trial made a horrible decision. As far as I’m concerned he did not understand the issues properly. We could argue about that but it is irrelevant. Judges have legal authority – they do not determine the truth.

          • I looked up Dover, and the judge did make the correct decision. Public schools should not push religious articles of faith, such as “Intelligent Design by God the Creator,” as if they were legitimate ideas.

          • Wait a minute, so not only do you know more about abiogenesis than scientists who have studied it for years if not decades, you now claim to know more about the constitution and laws of the US than a District Court Judge!

            Moshe, you are a true polymath.

      • That’s because of your preference for believing in the supernatural instead of taking reality seriously.

        On its own terms, “the ID argument” is based on believing in something not-of-this-world, and answering it on its own terms is precisely what I’ve been doing: since “the ID argument” is not based on anything real, rejecting/ignoring it is the only realistic way to handle it.

        It might be poetical fun, but its not science or any way to understand anything.

      • I think you don’t understand me because we approach reality in radically different ways. You look at reality and think, “There’s got to be something more.” And I really cannot fathom (expect in a very vague sense) how you can take that attitude.

        But then I look at reality and think, “How neat, what a lot to do and figure out!” And it seems that you can’t get how I can “settle for so little.”

        I like “of-this-world,” and you prefer “not-of-this-world.”

      • The “ID argument” (or IDOL, as I’ve come to call it) is empty gas-bagging, so there is nothing substantial there to ignore. I just take it for what it’s worth: zero.

  • In the Beginning there was — Something? — Nothing? After reading the article and every comment to this point, it is impossible for me to discern exactly what the hypercritical, Atheist writers, which you seem to attract in such quantity and quality believe other than that belief in anything other than hard scientific facts as known today, is utterly wrong thinking. It is refreshing however, to see all of these intelligent comments without the tiresome phrase, “the science is settled” that pervades the climate warming arguments. Enjoyed this very much.

    • There’s always something. You can count on it.

    • As an atheist, I believe in plenty of things that are not hard scientific facts. I believe that Rachmaninov was a great composer. I believe that I live in place more beautiful than those around it. I believe my wife and kids are wonderful. These are not questions for science (although science could provide insights into all of them, I’m sure).

      But there’s a huge difference between believing things other than hard scientific facts, and believing things that contradict hard scientific facts.

      Believing Rachmaninov great contradicts no known science. Believing that non-material entities intervene in the physical universe contradicts all known science. While both are extra-scientific beliefs, they could not be more different.

      The proponents of god-created life put forward no mechanism by which physical events can have non-physical causes, and indeed all experimental searches for such phenomena have concluded that such phenomena do not exist, on the basis of observed reality. The idea that a god arranged atoms into a bacteria is indistinguishable in every way from fiction. The rational response is to conclude that it IS fiction.

  • Normann Wheland

    Moshe Averick on December 15, 2011 10:10 am wrote:

    “Alan,

    The credible alternative is everything every human being from time immemorial has experienced and understood.”

    The above is a particularly egregious example of the absolutism fallacy. Moshe must fancy himself omniscient to make the claim to know what “EVERY (emphasis added) human being from time immemorial has experienced and understood.” I call B.S. on that one.

    • If I may add a (Christian) comment from the Apostle Paul–he said basically the same thing as Moshe–”…since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

      • Normann Wheland

        That just goes to show how far back the argument from ignorance fallacy can be traced in the literature. “Paul” used it 2,000 years ago and Moshe continues to fall victim to it today.

    • Everything, without exception, that people have come to know and understand throughout history has been invariably, infallibly 100% natural. This is not a coincidence: it is the only possibility. There is no alternative to (or escape from) the actual physical universe that is reality.

      Nothing supernatural ever has been or ever could be found. That’s life.

      Belief in the superanatural (e.g., God the Creator from outside the natural world) is blind fantasy.

      • Not only that, but we understand (through science) what sort of brain chemistry leads to such beliefs. Anyone interested should read up on the Marsh Chapel experiments.

        • Humans all have the same basic “brain chemistry,” but if you notice, they don’t all have the same beliefs. So “brain chemistry” doesn’t explain it.

          • People do not all have the same brain chemistry. Neurochemical differences are well understood to cause all sorts of effects, from bonding capabilities to mental illnesses.

            Specifically, stimulating certain parts of the brain with certain pharmacological agents produces subjective experiences that are perceived as supernatural interaction. If you didn’t bother reading up on the Marsh Chapel experiments (also called the Good Friday experiments) then you should, because they demonstrate this phenomenon.

          • Another good name might be the “big grain of salt” experiments.

  • Moshe have you seen any of the TED Talks that describe what scientist can presently do in their labs to create proto life systems? It will amaze you. Science will unravel this riddle eventually.

    • John,

      What scientists do in labs is Intelligent Design. I already know that a GM plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan can manufacture a Chevy Impala, this does not tell me that a Chevy Impala can emerge from a prebiotic swamp.

      • Chevys, like all things designed with any level of intelligence, are post-biotic. There was no intelligence in any “prebiotic swamp.” Intelligence evolved only (and necessarily so) after life originated.

      • @Moshe and elephant dung “creates” plants from seed. Does that mean the intelligent designer is an elephant? Come on.

      • Where is your god’s manufacturing plant? We can conclude that a Chevy Impala is designed and manufactured by human beings, because we have abundant empirical evidence leading to that conclusions.

        Where is your evidence of your god’s life-creating enterprise?

        Lingering emissions from the day of life’s creation? Ruins that once were his assembly line? A union card from the Divine Order of Angels, Local 666?


  • “We said that the universe came out of nothing 3,300 years ago!”

    You were wrong 3,300 years ago, and you’re still wrong today — not to mention that you’ll continue to be wrong as long as you advocate the absurdly silly notion of “something from nothing” (or even “intelligence before life!”).

    It seems that people who propound the notion of “something from nothing” just never stop to think how bizarre the notion is. As the song says, “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.”

  • As for Moshe’s rather naive claim that Berlinski is “a rather brilliant academic”, I would like to ask a few questions:

    1) What major (or even minor) mathematical discoveries has this “rather brilliant academic” made? (None, to my knowledge.)

    2) What ideas has this “rather brilliant academic” published in prestigious (or even respectable) academic journals? (None, to my knowledge.)

    3) What prestigious academic posts has this “rather brilliant academic” held? (None, to my knowledge.)

    4) What scientific background or experience does he have that gives him sufficient expertise to understand, let alone competently criticise evolutionary biology? (None, to my knowledge — but then neither does Moshe appear to have any.)

    • Normann Wheland

      Touché!

      ” ‘The main proponents of Intelligent Design, however, while being very active and loud in asserting their anti-evolution views, have so far produced no genuine scientific results related to their ID theory. Most of them, with a few exceptions, have produced very little of anything scientific in general. For example, David Berlinski, usually referred to as a mathematician, has authored popular books on mathematics, and papers against evolution, but has no known record of his own contribution to the development of mathematics or of any other science.’ Scientists Respond to the Orchestrated Assault of IDists on Professor Gross Mark Perakh. Science Insights, a publication of the National Association of Scholars, September 2003″

      http://www.talkreason.org/articles/SI_Resp.cfm

      • Let me correct the record. Berlinski is not a mathematician. His PhD degree is in philosophy and he has deviously neglected to correct the record when he is referred to as a mathematician. He has, to my knowledge,never published a paper in a peer reviewed mathematics journal. I took great pleasure in personally outing Berlinski as a faux mathematician on Jason Rosenhouse’s blog when the host described him as a mathematician.

    • Hraffi,

      Why don’t you challenge Berlinski to a debate? I’m sure you’d do fine.

      • Debates don’t settle anything except who is better at debating. What a silly challenge.

        • Chris Granger,

          I must begrudgingly admit that you are probably right. On the other hand, part of the problem is the way the debates are set up. In my opinion they are set up primarily for entertainment value, not to actually get to the heart of an issue. A proper debate needs a lot of time, and nowadays most people can’t sit still long enough.

      • moshe averick:

        As has been pointed out, debates settle nothing — and just provide entertainment for the enthusiasts on either side.

        I would therefore like to suggest an alternative challenge. If you, David “a rather brilliant academic” Berlinski or any of his Disco ‘Tute colleagues think you/they have a genuinely scientific criticism of the Theory of Evolution, then why don’t you present it to scientific scrutiny in a genuine peer-reviewed scientific journal (i.e. not one controlled by your fellow creationists)?

      • Mr. Berlinski already had a debate with the late John Maynard Smith in Great Britain in which he was totally annihilated.

  • “From Coyne’s psychological perspective, it is impossible for there to be flaws in evolutionary theory.”

    ROFLMAO!

    What an incredible, mind-numbing, awe-inspiring lack of self-awareness.

    1a) Every scientist knows that every scientific theory is subject to further improvement and revision (this is after all a key part of the scientific method).

    1b) Every evolutionary biologist (a group that includes Coyne) knows that the Theory of Evolution has been subjected to an enormous amount of improvement and revision since Darwin’s time, and in all likelihood will be subjected to further improvement and revision.

    2) Rather it is evolution’s (almost exclusively religious) opponents who believe in the perfection of their interpretation of their religious texts, which leads them to deny both the evidence and conclusion of hundreds of thousands of scientists, working in dozen of disparate scientific fields, which happen to contradict these interpretations.

    From a psychological perspective, this is phenomenon, of attributing your own flaws to your opponent, is called “projection”.

  • TL;DR – Moshe is mad because Jerry called a spade a spade.

  • Why is it ‘bizarre’ to characterize “Berlinski as a “creationist,” and a “defender” of Intelligent Design”?

    Creationism, and ID (itself a form of creationism) exists to promote scientifically-ignorant anti-evolution arguments. Berlinski himself (a scientific ignoramus who believes that palaeontology teaches that whales are descended from cows) promotes these self-same arguments.

    The only difference between Berlinski and a true Creationist (ID or otherwise) is that the latter promotes these arguments out of religious zeal, Davey out of a hubristic and crankish denial that science can know anything that he himself cannot understand.

  • Dear Ms. McCormick,

    I never claimed that Dr. Szostak supported ID and I never attempted to give anyone that impression. If it appeard that way, it was not done intentionally at all, and I apologize. I cited his article specifically BECAUSE he is an atheist. I never quote supporters of ID, not in my book and not in my articles. It’s easy to quote people who have the same opinion as your own.

    Dr. Szostak is not the only one who found it “impossible” to imagine how life could have come from non-life through an unguided process. The late Dr. Harold Klein from NASA said almost the same thing word for word. So did Dr. George Whitesides and Stuart Kaufman.
    Dr. Gerald Joyce wrote that there is no “realistic” scenario for the emergence of an RNA World and does not expect to find one in the forseeable future. Dr. Michael Yarus writes almost the same in his recent book about RNA World research. I am certain that you already are aware of how the late Dr. Robert Shapiro felt about the possibility of the emergence of RNA replicators on the ancient Earth.
    DR. Paul Davies famously said “We haven’t a clue” about how life started. All of these scientists have said essentially the same thing as Dr. Szostak and none of them are supporters of ID. I don’t think I am misrepresenting them or slandering them.

    When Dr. Szostak writes that it is virtually “impossible” to imagine such a thing, he is stating the simple truth. When he states that he is sure that science will find an answer, he is stating, not a scientific fact, but an article of faith. Is he, and are you, prepared to consider the possibility that the reason why “we haven’t a clue” and that it is is “virtually impossible” to imagine how life came from non-life is because it could not, and never did happen? If not, why won’t you consider that possibility?

    The “breakthroughs” in prebiotic research do not tell us how life could have emerged from non-life. They simply illustrate for us the incredible things that can happen when you have the finest scientific minds, working with the latest cutting edge laboratory equipment, meticulously following rigorously supervised lab protocols.

    Just in case there is any confusion, I officially state for the record: I know that Dr. Jack Szostak is not a supporter of ID, He is an atheist and has faith that science will eventually present us with a plausible, empirically demonstrable, testable and falsifiable scenario for the emergence of life from non-life. This has not yet happened, but he believes that one day it will. I contend that his “belief” in that outcome has no rational basis, and in fact flies in the face of rational thinking.
    The rational thinker would conclude what I have concluded: The notion that something as functionally complex as a bacterium and its genetic machinery could emerge through a naturalistic, unguided process is so absurd that it can be rejected out of hand. However, I am prepared to change my mind if I am presented with conclusive evidence.

    • At one time, the idea that a human being could emerge from a bacteria given sufficient time through an unguided process would have seemed so absurd that it would have been rejected out of hand. But now we’ve discovered the process responsible.

      At one time, the idea that men could strap themselves to a giant explosive, and use it to travel to the moon and back would have seemed so absurd that it would have been rejected out of hand. But that was done 40 years ago.

      Arguments from ignorance aren’t remotely convincing. If you want to base an argument on the claim that life arising from natural processes is impossible, then you need evidence for that claim. If you want to claim that life arose by supernatural intervention, then you have even more work to do, as not only is there no evidence for such an intervention, there’s not even any evidence that supernatural entities are any more than fiction. Worse still, there’s a huge amount of evidence that they are just fiction, following pervasive fictional formats that transcend culture and time period. And even worse still, there’s a mountain of evidence that people are easily persuaded to believe things that are not true when there’s a promised reward for doing so, or a promised punishment for doubt.

      Supernatural intervention in the creation of life ticks all the boxes as archetypal fiction. The religions that promote this fiction as reality tick all the boxes for standard methods of social control and enforcement of conformity. Why should a rational person believe that those myths, and the entrenched power structures that make use of them, are anything but what they seem to be?

      • JP,

        In the meantime, scientists don’t have the slightest clue how life could emerge from non-life. when they come up with a plausible, empirically demonstrable, testable and falsifiable theory you can trumpet to the whole world that I was wrong. Until then….

        • But they’re not making any claims, Moshe, you are. You’re the one who reckons he’s got all the answers as to how life arose. Where’s your plausible, empirically demonstrable, testable and falsifiable theory? Until you have one…

        • What’s your credible alternative and where is the mountain of evidence to support the case (the same mountain you are asking those supporting abiogenesis to provide). Scientists at least have supporting evidence for a process of abiogenesis. This is not the same type of “faith” as is needed to believe in an intelligent designer. It is a hunch with supporting evidence, not a random proclamation that “God(s) did it” (or some other supernatural being).

          • Alan,

            The credible alternative is everything every human being from time immemorial has experienced and understood. It is the same reason we don’t have to “prove” that cave drawings are the result of intelligent agents. It’s the same reason why if the SETI scientists received morse code transmissions from outer space that that they would not go searching for naturalistic processes that would account for them, but would immediately proclaim that there is life on other planets, it is the same reason why everyone who saw the movie “2001 A Space Odyssey” accepted the premise of the movie; namely that a perfectly formed metal rectangle buried on the moon was the result of intelligent life, not an unknown “metallurgical evolutionary process.” Please note: I am talking here about origin of life, not products of DArwinian Evolution which can emerge only AFTER life begins.

          • “It’s the same reason why if the SETI scientists received morse code transmissions from outer space that that they would not go searching for naturalistic processes that would account for them, but would immediately proclaim that there is life on other planets”

            Wrong again Bozo.

            Upon receiving Morse Code transmissions from outer space, the SETI crew would immediately go searching for human source or processes that would account for them.

            It’s called verifying your results, apparently its something that just doesn’t occur to Theists.

        • A couple of points here:

          1) Not knowing the answer to a question of how something happened doesn’t mean there must be something unnatural about the answer; it just means the answer isn’t known.

          2) In fact, the supernatural can never be a rational/legitimate answer to any question about how anything in the world actually works — because the world is an entirely natural matter.

          3) No one has a clue about how life emerged from non-life. But it is entirely certain that the process was 100% natural (or else there would have been no way for it to happen).

        • And Moshe starts his perpetual ignorance machine once again, just repeating the same silly stuff over and over again as if quantity trumps quality.

          • Salvage,

            If it doesn’t stop you, why should it stop me?

          • I know you are, but what am I?

            Honestly Moshe, you sound less mature than my son. He’s starting school next year, and he doesn’t stoop to such inanity.

          • Well it should stop you because your fallacies and outright errors / lies have been well exposed not only in this thread but in pretty much all of them.

            If I said stuff that a bunch of people kept on jumping on and saying I was wrong backed up by reason, logic, proof that would most certainly get me to stop and think. Certainly to investigate.

            Mushe I used to believe just as you did, when I was a kid, it all made sense. My favourite argument was the butterfly with images of owl eyes on their wings. There’s no way that could be random I thought.

            Then 10 years later I read my first book on evolution and then it all snapped into place and the idea of a god painstakingly tweaking a butterfly’s DNA to look like owl eyes seemed just about the stupidest thing in the world.

            Like anything that says a god did it.

          • Salvage,

            it sounds almost like you had a revelation from God. it still doesn’t solve the problem of origin of life. Evolution is irrelevant to the question of God the Creator.

        • “In the meantime, scientists don’t have the slightest clue how life could emerge from non-life.”

          So what? Looking for real answers and not finding them is better than giving up and believing in the supernatural. Science can make sense, religion cannot.

        • At that point, won’t you just move the goalposts again? This discussion started with “Where does lightning come from?”

        • But scientists do have a clue how life could emerge from non-life.

          There’s the primordial soup theory (which we replicated the Miller-Urey experiments in my high school biology class).

          There’s the life starting from ice theory (Dr. Stanley Miller) with experiments performed in the arctic.
          http://discovermagazine.com/2008/feb/did-life-evolve-in-ice
          So, they have a clue, and are closing in on the mechanism. Turns out that self-replicating molecules are rather common.

          I guess you can “trumpet to the whole world that you were wrong.”

        • Moshe, frozen cyanide in the presence of ammonia can lead to adenine. You know, part of your DNA? There’s your answer. You’re welcome.

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11543508?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum%20target=_blank

    • “The notion that something as functionally complex as a bacterium and its genetic machinery could emerge through a naturalistic, unguided process is so absurd that it can be rejected out of hand.”

      Moshe, you have gotten it rather backwards. The rational approach would be something like this: The notion that something as functionally complex as a bacterium and its genetic machinery could emerge through a supernaturalistic, intelligently designed and guided process is so absurd that it can be rejected out of hand.

      Since intelligence is an attribute of (some) living entities, the notion that the process of the evolution of intelligence was GUIDED is absurdly self-contradictory (claiming that there was intelligence before there was intelligence). Rationally, such a notion must be rejected as illogical and unserious (as nonsense of a high order, as a matter of fact).


    • “He is an atheist and has faith that science will eventually present us with a plausible, empirically demonstrable, testable and falsifiable scenario for the emergence of life from non-life. This has not yet happened, but he believes that one day it will. I contend that his “belief” in that outcome has no rational basis, and in fact flies in the face of rational thinking.”

      Rationality requires adherence to reality, i.e., to NATURE, and rejects the substitution of fantasy (e.g., beliefs in supernatural beings outside of the physical universe/nature) for the reliance on facts, evidence, and logic.

      The answers to any questions we will ever have about how things work in the world can necessarily be found only in natural processes (since there aren’t any unnatural ones). This is a basic fact, not in any way a matter of FAITH. In fact, the rational mind needs to reject faith as a worse than useless practice that actually sabotages thinking and science.

    • Terri-Lynn McCormick

      Again, you say what is not true. My husband certainly can imagine – and has shown many steps in how life might have formed unguided. Here is the quote you sight in context: It is virtually impossible to imagine how a cell’s machines, which are mostly protein-based catalysts called enzymes, could have formed spontaneously as life first arose from nonliving matter around 3.7 billion years ago. To be sure, under the right conditions some build- ing blocks of proteins, the amino acids, form easily from simpler chemicals, as Stanley L. Miller and Harold C. Urey of the University of Chicago discovered in pioneering experiments in the 1950s. But going from there to proteins and enzymes is a different matter.
      A cell’s protein-making process involves complex enzymes pull- ing apart the strands of DNA’s double helix to extract the informa- tion contained in genes (the blueprints for the proteins) and translate it into the finished product. Thus, explaining how life began entails a serious paradox: it seems that it takes proteins—as well as the in- formation now stored in DNA—to make proteins.
      On the other hand, the paradox would disappear if the first organ- isms did not require proteins at all. Recent experiments suggest it would have been possible for genetic molecules similar to DNA or to its close relative RNA to form spontaneously. And because these mol- ecules can curl up in different shapes and act as rudimentary catalysts, they may have become able to copy themselves—to reproduce—with- out the need for proteins. The earliest forms of life could have been simple membranes made of fatty acids—also structures known to form spontaneously—that enveloped water and these self-replicating genetic molecules.

      And he concludes: It is relatively easy to imagine how RNA- based protocells may have then evolved.

      I invite all your readers to see the entire article. It was in the September 2009 issue of Scientific American, titled “Origin of Life on Earth” and co-authored by Alonso Ricardo.

      The fact is that those working in the field have deduced that, given the conditions on early earth, life was more likely to arise than not.

      I do not know if you are lying or are incapable of understanding the article, but I suspect the former. Make no mistake, this kind of misrepresentation is a lie. When you say someone has said something that supports your argument when you know that the whole of his words undermine it, you are lying about what the person said. Civil discourse begins with honest engagement.

      • Dear Ms. McCormick,

        I read the entire article and understand very clearly that Dr. Szostak believes life somehow emerged from non-life through an unguided process.

        What he and others have presented are speculative theories, not science. Creating protocells under pristine laboratory conditions that are remarkably similar to an automobile assembly line, and remarkable dissimilar to nature does not support abiogenesis. They actually support ID theory. As I wrote earlier, these great achievements (and they truly are) say much about the skill and ingenuity of the scientists involved, but almost nothing about how life could have emerged naturalistically on the ancient earth.

        I was a little surprised that Dr. Szostak cited the Miller-Urey experiments, as many mainstream scientists have acknowledged that many of the assumptions that Miller made about the prebiotic atmosphere are probably not even valid. Be that as it may, we both undertand that to go from mud, which forms quite easily and naturally, to a primitive , mud hut is quite a formidable task and will never occur naturally. To go from amino acids to a bacterium is enough to make your head swim.

        • ” read the entire article and understand very clearly that Dr. Szostak believes life somehow emerged from non-life through an unguided process.” So, Ms. McCormick’s suspicions that you were lying when you misrepresented her husband’s views were accurate then?

          • Penn,

            No, I never cited Dr.Szostak in order to imply that he believed in ID. I cited him in order to show that no scientist on the face of the earth knows how life could have started from non-life through an unguided process. The fact that Jack Szostak accepts as an article of faith (along with many other atheists) that there IS a naturalistic explanation for the emergence of life has nothing to do with science and everything to do with his own personal worldview.

            I already apologized to Ms. McCormick if it appeared that I was implying otherwise. If it did appear that way, it was completely unintentional.

        • a different phil

          I kind of remember that the Bible had something to say about “bearing false witness”. Seems like God’s against that.

        • Creating hypothesis and testing them in limited ways to try to falsify them is actually exactly what science is about. Your calling it “speculation” and complaining about pristine lab conditions demonstrates you have zero understanding of the scientific process. You simply bank on the fact that we haven’t reached any solid scientific condition as your opportunity to inject your god of the gaps. Not very good form, Rabbi.

        • “Creating protocells under pristine laboratory conditions that are remarkably similar to an automobile assembly line, and remarkable dissimilar to nature does not support abiogenesis.”

          But before there was life on earth, it was pristine, in the sense that there was no other life that might eat it or corrupt it before it had a chance to evolve into life. Anyway, this kind of early research is called “proof of concept”. They can work out the bells and whistles later.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

          It is well understood by scientists that the end goal of science is “speculative theories” like general relativity on gravitation because scientific theories speculate, predict, what can be tested. By connecting testable facts in testable theories the latter becomes “super facts”, more reliable than any one fact.

          The RNA world, which is one step further along towards abiogenesis, is one such well tested fact and theory. Szostak alludes to some of those tests, fossil RNA enzymes found at the core of protein production.

          In fact, the area of abiogenesis has been known to be testable for about as long as we have known about the RNA world. Wäschterhäuser’s surface metabolism theories were explicitly constructed to be testable. Hence we have left the process of proposing abiogenesis pathways for the process of paring the numerous set down.

          Szostak’s work lies precisely in the main, tested, pathway between abiogenesis and the RNA world. Here is a sketch of one test:

          Bottom up, chemical network enzymes are a natural outcome in newer scenarios. High-temperature reactions seems to be much faster than orthodox theory predicted from scant data. This temperature dependence gives a self-selection for enthalpic pre-proteinous enzymes. ["Impact of temperature on the time required for the establishment of primordial biochemistry, and for the evolution of enzymes", Stockbridge et al, PNAS, 2010.]

          Now looking top down, we see that pathways meet. The first modern metabolic networks originated with purine metabolism, and specifically with the gene family of the P-loop-containing ATP hydrolase fold. ["The origin of modern metabolic networks inferred from phylogenomic analysis of protein architecture", Caetano-Anollés et al. PNAS, 2007; "Rapid evolutionary innovation during an Archaean genetic expansion", David et al, Nature, 2010.]

          That is, ATP and its self-catalyzing AMP progenitor, sits at the intersection between a cooling and later hydrothermal vent active Earth premetabolism and nucleotide protometabolism. (Which compound seems to later have been exaptated by modern proteinous metabolic genes as coenzyme/energy currency.) Minimum change of traits picks ATP use before RNA evolution.

          Note that this is an (informal) test of a phylogenetic pathway.

          Claiming against observations such as these, testability now decades old, it is ridiculous to falsely claim that these are religious aka faith ideas. They are nothing but, and the perverse insistence of creationists to the reverse seem like outright falsehood as McCormick notes.

      • “The fact is that those working in the field have deduced that, given the conditions on early earth, life was more likely to arise than not.”

        How important is it to figure how “likely” it was? It did happen, so isn’t that a really big clue about how perfectly natural it was?

        • Terri-Lynn McCormick

          I guess that is more important when you consider the likelihood of finding life on other planets. We are here, ipso facto…

    • Terri-Lynn McCormick

      Please see my reply below.

    • Traditionally, Moshe, people cite the source of their quotes such that readers can read the entire thing in context and to spot B.S. in the form of slicing their words into pieces. Why are you not providing sources?

      The replications of which you speak are based on conditions in the early universe of which evidence was found and the replications are absolutely the best explaination we have for how early life started. There is as of now ZERO evidence for what you’re calling a “guided process” and I’m starting to think that commenters here should be getting a stipend for all the biology lessons they’ve offered you for nothing.

  • Also, Moshe, do you have any examples of Berlinski’s writing that you think are particularly fine?

    I’ve read through some articles of his from his website ( http://www.davidberlinski.org/articles.php ) and I’ve got to say I’m not very impressed. His writing appears to be of a similar low standard to your own, although he appears to know how to use apostrophes. Perhaps he just has a better editor.

  • “From Coyne’s psychological perspective, it is impossible for there to be flaws in evolutionary theory. It is impossible for any rational person to have doubts about evolutionary theory. The only possible reason for anyone to question Darwinian Evolution would be in order to promote their religious agenda.”

    Moshe, are you aware that speciation in response to ennvironmental change has been observed? Evolution is an observed fact. The theory, as it stands, that we have to explain the facts that we have observed has been rigorously tested, and has been successfully used predictively. There are thousands of peer-reviewed papers that confirm the theory, and none that directly contradict it.

    Coyne is right. No rational person would think that the theory, which has been shown to conform with observed reality through thousands of experiments, is wrong without first having come up with an insuperable counterexample for the theory, or a better explanatory scheme for the tens of thousands of results we’ve observed.

    Doubting evolution, a process that’s been observed and studied in great detail, is like doubting gravity. No rational person doubts that theory, either, thanks to the thousands of tests that it has successfully passed. Ditto the theories of electromagnetism, or thermodynamics.

    To doubt the reality of processes that have been seen and recorded by thousands of people, and theories that accurately explain those processes both retrospectively and predictively, is not rational, and it’s perfectly reasonable to state that rejection of those theories has a basis in an irrational agenda – the alternative is that rejection of observed reality is a symptom of mental illness. Coyne is actually taking the high road in not suggesting that.

    [As an aside, your use of quadriplegic as an insult reflects very poorly on your own ability to take that high road. You really should know better.]

    • JP,

      As I stated in the article. I leave the argument about evolution to people who understand it much better than myself. I think that Dr. Coyne is qualified to present a case and I think that Dr. Berlinski is quite qualified to present a case. That is how we get to the truth, we listen to people who understand a subject battle it out and we draw our conclusions. You are certainly entitled to reach whatever conclusions you decide. I don’t get involved in the debate about evolution. I simply don’t have the time or energy for it. What I wrote in my book is the following:

      “Ground Rule #7: Evolution – A fundamental premise of this book is that the topic of Darwinian Evolution is irrelevant to our discussion about the existence of God
      This book is not concerned with the following: Darwinian Evolution and Natural Selection. As far as I’m concerned, getting into that fracas as a non-biologist/scientist is getting involved in the ideological equivalent of the Battle of Stalingrad. We shall demonstrate in the coming chapters, that contrary to popular belief, Darwinian Evolution is irrelevant to our question. None of this, of course, has anything at all to do with the topic of the origin of life. As Professor Richard Dawkins, a zealous proponent of atheism, writes in The God Delusion, “Darwinian evolution proceeds merrily once life has originated. But how does life get started?”

      Yes, Professor Dawkins, how DOES life get started? This book is most definitely concerned with the origin of life.”

      As far as taking the high road or the low road: The entire post by Coyne was traversed on the low road. I listed the crude insults that he directed at Dr. Berlinski. If you are going to dish it out, you’d better be prepared to take it. If you think that Berlinski’s writing is “awkward” then you are entitled to that opinion. However, it is a terribly mistaken opinion. You may disagree strongly with what Berlinski has to say, but his command of the English
      language is magnificent as is his writing. Jerry
      Coyne does not hold a candle to him in this area.

      I think that the only thing I agreed with in Hitchen’s book was the copyright page, but it is impossible not to acknowledge that the man knows how to wield a pen and how to write wonderfully. Imagine how absurd it would have been if I had attacked not Hitchens’ ideas but criticized his “awkward” writing style. This is how silly it was of Coyne to attack Berlinski in this way.

      • Moshe, I know you’re a bit allergic to evidence, but instead of simply asserting the magnificence of Berlinski’s writing, could you provide a link to some of his magnificent writing online? Perhaps you have something in mind that you find particularly impressive, and I’ve just read stuff he wrote on an off day.

        For example, take this paragraph:
        “By the same token, it requires no very great analytic effort to understand why the scientific community should find atheism so attractive a doctrine. At a time when otherwise sober individuals are inclined to believe that too much of science is too much like a racket, it is only sensible for scientists to suggest aggressively that no power exceeds their own.”

        It’s his grand conclusion in this article:
        http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-scientific-embrace-of-atheism/

        But what does it mean? It erects a strawman fallacy, and characterises his own argument as one held by people who are “otherwise sober”, introducing an ambiguity that is really a quite unfortunate for his argument (not to mention that the criticism of being too much like a racket is far more often levelled at religious organisations than scientific ones).

        Or:
        “The defense of Darwin’s theory of evolution has now fallen into the hands of biologists who believe in suppressing criticism when possible and ignoring it when not. It is not a strategy calculated in induce confidence in the scientific method. A paper published recently in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington concluded that the events taking place during the Cambrian era could best be understood in terms of an intelligent design—hardly a position unknown in the history of western science. The paper was, of course, peer-reviewed by three prominent evolutionary biologists. Wise men attend to the publication of every one of the Proceeding’s papers, but in the case of Steven Meyer’s “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories,” the Board of Editors was at once given to understand that they had done a bad thing. Their indecent capitulation followed at once.”

        the lead paragraph of this article http://www.discovery.org/a/2450

        Leaving aside the grammatical error in the second sentence, it’s hardly compelling writing. Nor is it even remotely accurate. It implies that the article was approved by the Board of Editors (it wasn’t) and that it was reviewed by three evolutionary biologists (the reviewers have, to this day, not been named).

        Do you think the above passages are “magnificent” writing? I don’t. Please feel free to provide some examples that move you to the high praise you have for Berlinski’s prose.

        [And Moshe, again, you should learn to use apostrophes. At the very least, stop inserting them in the middle of surnames like Hitchens and Myers.]

  • רב” מושה היקר, המאמר שלך גרוע ביותר, וגם ההאשמות ועלבונות שאתה מכוון כלפי ג’רי ממש מכוערות וחסרי דרך ארץ ונימוס יסודי. כאחד שדוגל בערכים של יהדות שלפיה יהודי נתפש כ”מלך” והדלתות תמיד פתוחות לעשות “תשובה”, אתה סותר את אותן אמונות שלך. תגיד, “רב” אורתודוכסי אמריקאי יכול בכלל להוות תשובה בעברית לעניינים הנ”ל? כי אני בספק…. אתה נוכל בעיניי, מה שכתבת פה חסר הן הגיון ושכל והן חוכמה. לידיעתך אני לא ישראלי דווקא סתם “יהודי תרבותי” שנמאס לו מדתים כמוך וצביעות שלכם.

    • JAKE,

      I don’t have hebrew on my computer or I would be happy to answer in Hebrew. You are entitled to your opinion about what I wrote. It seems to me that you did not bother to read carefully the vulgar things that Jerry Coyne wrote, not only about Dr. Berlinki, whom I know quite well, but about myself and Rabbi Jacobs. With a person like that I apply the pasuk in Mishlei:
      “Answer a fool according to his folly”

      • So you’re trying to answer a person you think is a vulgar fool, by writing something that makes you look petulant and irrational, and you think that’s a good thing?

        Wouldn’t it demonstrate your point better to write something polished and intelligent?

    • Jake,

      “Here, here!”

    • I can’t read hebrew, but I think you just got pwned by God.

  • Normann Wheland

    Moshe said > “I am not qualified to pass judgment on the substance…”

    Your self-admitted incompetency notwithstanding, I notice that you fell back into one of your usual fallacious ploys of quote mining. I’ve taken the liberty to research what I consider to be one of the better blogs devoted to the discussion and explication of logical fallacies.

    http://www.fallacyfiles.org/index.html

    I suggest that you make an effort to review it and then adjust “…the tone and maturity level of [your own sanctimonious, hypocritical] screed…”; for example –

    “… While Coyne’s inability to control his adolescent impulses to crudely insult his opponent – so much so that it leaves us wondering if he simply forgot to take his medication…”;

    “… [Coyne's writing style] could only be described as quadriplegic. On the other hand, if Berlinski’s writing is the most exquisite bottle of French Bordeaux wine, [Coyne's] is a watered-down quart bottle of Ripple. I’m sure an august institution like the University of Chicago has some wonderful creative writing courses…Just do it, Jerry.”

    etc., etc., etc.

    • Norman,

      I never take atheists seriously when they fling out accusations of “quote mining”. If you feel I took a citation out of context, then explain clearly why you think it is so. I can just as easily say that YOU are quote mining, it means nothing unless you back it up.

      Jerry Coyne, in my opinion, reacted like a tantruming child in his post about David Berlinski. Berlinski and Coyne may have profound disagreements about Darwinian Evolution, but knowing Dr. Berlinski quite well there is no reason why Jerry Coyne could not have said everything he wanted to say without ranting like a vulgar adolescent. If that is the way he chooses to write, then he opens himself up to the same thing.

      • You should drop the diversionary issue of “quote mining.

      • Normann Wheland

        And “there is no reason why [Moshe Averick] could not have said everything he wanted to say without ranting like a vulgar adolescent.”

        Did you forget to take your anti-sanctimonious-hypocrisy (tu quoque fallacy) “medication” this morning?

      • You should drop that diversionary issue of “quote mining.”

      • The most obvious quote mine in this piece is of course the out of context quote from Szostak which has already been addressed. Instead of ignoring critics when they point out quote-mines, it might be better to actually listen to them. Or even better, stop doing it so that they don’t have a reason to bring it up.

  • “I am not qualified to pass judgment on the substance of their disagreement, which revolves around the ability or inability of evolutionary theory to account for the organized complexity of life on our planet.”

    “it is impossible for a cell’s machines to have formed spontaneously from non-living matter. The notion that the functional complexity of a bacterium could be the result of an unguided process is as absurd as asserting that the sculptures on Mt. Rushmore were the result of an unguided, naturalistic process.”

    I thought you just said you weren’t qualified to pass judgement; so why are you doing just that? Did you get a degree in biology between paragraph two and nine?

    • Brian,

      You need to read my book and my articles much more carefully. I am not qualified to pass judgement in an argument about Evolutionary biology. I certainly have my own opinions on the matter, but I am not qualified to write about it in a public forum. Origin of Life is a completely separate scientific discipline, and in this are I am totally confident in stating my opinion.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Oh, an expert! Since you are so confident of your opinion in the field of origin of life studies, what do you think of:
        Powner, M. W., Gerland, B. & Sutherland, J. D. Nature 459, 239-242 2009

        Specifically, how does this influence your opinion regarding the probability that the RNA World Theory, which is already accepted by most molecular biologists, will continue to advance? Feel free to refer to structural studies of the ribosome in your response.

        Thank you.

        • Reginald,

          I am aware of Dr. Sutherland’s work. He is a brilliant researcher, as is Dr. Jack Szostak.
          Here is the commentary of the late, Dr. Robert Shapiro, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at NYU
          and a renowned expert in Origin of Life research on the Sutherland paper:
          “The flaw in this kind of research is not in the chemistry. The flaw is in the logic – that this type of experimental control by researchers in a modern laboratory could have been available on the early earth.”

          This is the problem with almost all prebiotic chemistry. Dr. Stephen Myer also writes extensively on this particular finding. I don’t have the exact link but if you go to the Discovery.org website, they will provide you with all the appropriate references.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            The New York Times covered the Sutherland work on May 13, 2009 with an article by Nicholas Wade. The article include this quote from Shapiro with a response from Sutherland:

            “”
            Dr. Sutherland’s proposal has not convinced everyone. Dr. Robert Shapiro, a chemist at New York University, said the recipe “definitely does not meet my criteria for a plausible pathway to the RNA world.” He said that cyano-acetylene, one of Dr. Sutherland’s assumed starting materials, is quickly destroyed by other chemicals and its appearance in pure form on the early earth “could be considered a fantasy.”

            Dr. Sutherland replied that the chemical is consumed fastest in the reaction he proposes, and that since it has been detected on Titan there is no reason it should not have been present on the early earth.
            “”

            Shapiro, who acquired the nickname “Dr. No,” apparently forget that sometimes it is appropriate to say yes.

            Since the precise conditions of the early Earth are still under some scientific debate, I don’t know what to make of your response. Scientific experiments must be controlled if we are to have any understanding of what they demonstrate. But in this case they are attempting to model conditions which are not thoroughly understood. I am glad that researchers are less willing to give up on this problem than you seem to be.

            As for the Discovery Institute, they are dedicated to attacking science and supporting Intelligent Design Creationism. That you consider them a worthwhile resource speaks poorly of your scientific knowledge.

      • The notion that some sort of unliving “intelligence” could unnaturally design anything is not something which is reasonable to believe

  • Oh I missed this gem:

    >life-negating ideologies like atheism and Darwinism – which teach us that a human being is nothing more than an intelligent cockroach, and no more significant either

    Can you please source this? Being an atheist and a fan of Darwin I find it odd that I’ve never gotten that message.

    Atheism is the knowledge that there are no such things as gods, it doesn’t mention anything else, much less cockroaches.

    And I’m pretty sure that Darwin talked about humans being human as a result of evolution. The pinnacle really so not a bug.

    >A fanatic is someone who is so emotionally and psychologically bound up with their beliefs, that they are incapable of considering another point of view.

    I would say that applies to you but change “considering” to “understanding” and “another point of view” to “reality”.

    • Salvage,

      It’s strange that you never got the message, but here it is straight from the horse’s (or monkey’s or cockroach’s) mouth:

      In the words of renowned evolutionary biologist George Gaylord Simpson, “Man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have a human in mind. He was not planned. He is a state of matter, a form of life, a sort of animal, and a species in the order of primates…”

      • Hmm, if you read the quote you’ve just posted and interpret it to mean that evolution says humans are no more intelligent than cockroaches, it’s clear to me that your grasp of the English language is not very firm.

        That quote says that human beings are animals, a species of the order of primates, which we are, and says nothing about cockroaches, nor our intelligence in relation to theirs.

        It must be fun to read something and then decide that it means whatever you want it to, rather than what it actually says, huh?

        • Tsk, misread one sentence and it’s all downhill from there. No more than intelligent cockroaches =/= no more intelligent than cockroaches. *sigh* Apologies.

        • chris,

          I said that it implies that we are nothing more than INTELLIGENT cockroaches, not that we have the SAME INTELLIGENCE as cockroaches.

          • Yes, I realized my error immediately after hitting Submit Comment. (Isn’t that always the way?)

      • Is absolutely correct. If he were a chemist he might say:

        “Man is the result of a the interaction of potassium, sulphur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium and other trace elements.”

        And that would be spot on as well.

        Because that’s what life on this planet be it hairless ape, dancing bear, electric eel or hamster is made of.

        But how does that mean “not more significant either”?

        Find me a scientist who doesn’t think that we are significant creatures, you shown me scientists stating facts, so not the same thing.

        We are animals Mushe, we’re the most advanced kind we know of but that doesn’t change the fact that we eat, poop, spawn and die just like every other creeping, crawling, walking, flying, slithering, swimming, slouching, hopping, twirling, swinging, floating, running, scurrying, hovering, buzzing, spreading just like every living thing on this planet.

        It’s weird that you can’t see that really very obvious fact.

        This is of course the theist’s narcissism, why they’re so special they MUST have been made by a god! Not just that but made in the god’s IMAGE!

        Oh and waiting on the atheist inclusion in your original remark and how any of this is “life-negating ideologies”.

  • Terri-Lynn McCormick

    How dare you misrepresent my husband. Your quote from the Scientific American article blatantly distorts his meaning. It is virtually impossible to imagine the cell we know now to emerging from the pre-biotic earth. He and others have, over many years, been showing incrementally how an RNA cell might have been created on early earth. There is nothing in my husband’s work that suggests otherwise. It is quite sickening that you would try to make him, a steadfast rationalist and atheist, into a propopent for I.D. You are in complete disagreement with Prof. Jack Szostak. Unfortunately for you his opinion is backed up by facts and mountains of results from peer reviewed research.

    Please refrain from misrepresenting his opinions or work again. We consider it slander.

    • This is the best thing I’ve ever read on the Internet.

    • Normann Wheland

      Smack!! That’s gotta hurt, eh, Moshe!

      Unfortunately for Moshe, his misguided opinion rests primarily on a (non-peer-reviewed) pre-scientific, bronze-age fairy tale that has been mis-compiled, mistranslated, miscopied, misinterpreted and misquoted for over 2,000 years. Sad.

    • Dear Ms. McCormick,

      Please see my reply above.

    • Congratulations, Mrs. McCormick. You win the internet.

    • It is ironic that a Rabbi believes himself qualified to assess the state of play a complex scientific issue but can’t even muster the ethical decency not to blatantly lie. And make no mistake, quoting someone out of context as if they support a position which is the opposite of what was intended is a lie, plain and simple.

      Or perhaps we should recall the Rabbi Averick’s words from this article:

      “I am… full of lies… and… as silly and pathetic as a pastrami sandwich.”

    • Dear Ms. McCormick,

      Thank you for taking the time to defend your husband’s work. Please know that your efforts are not in vain. Exposing the lies of creationists like the Rabbi go a long way to undermining the trust that believers place in these anti-science, pro-ignorance, pro-superstition gentlemen. At the same time it increases respect for genuine scientific understanding.

      All the best,

      Devdas

    • Ouch! Moshe, I take it back. You should definetly *not* cite your sources if you plan to misrepresent people. You might get sued.

    • “Your quote from the Scientific American article blatantly distorts his meaning.”

      That’s standard creationist practice. See the TalkOrigins Quote Mine Project. I’m going to pass this example on to John Pieret, who maintains it.

  • >I am certain that God the Creator

    And since there is absolutely no proof of such a thing I am certain that you don’t know what “certain” means.

    Here is a lecture called ‘A Universe From Nothing’ given by Lawrence Krauss.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

    It’s an hour long but there are even a few gratuitous shots at theists for you to get the vapours over and bonus points; Richard Dawkins is in it and he makes a anti-Semitic joke for you to pass on to the ADL for immediate action. The man is clearly a Nazi.

    You can argue with us Mushe, but you can’t argue with the numbers and the math says no gods needed.

    Good thing too, cuz those things are nuts!

    • Salavage,

      Does Lawrence Krauss say that the Universe came out of nothing? Wow, it sure took those scientists long enough to catch up with the Torah and Judaism. We said that the universe came out of nothing 3,300 years ago!
      Gee, imagine that, Krauss can finally join his Bubbie and Zadie who’ve been waiting for him all these years.

      • Did you watch it Mushe?

        >Does Lawrence Krauss say that the Universe came out of nothing?

        Sigh. No you did not. Please try to imagine my surprise. See this is why you have the wives of scientist coming here and smacking you like a puppy sitting next to a pile of poo.

        What he says is that it’s quite possible if you look at the math.

        >Wow, it sure took those scientists long enough to catch up with the Torah and Judaism.

        Yes, caught up, that’s exactly it.

        >We said that the universe came out of nothing 3,300 years ago!

        Once again your Torah is rather unique, mine (well if I had one) says that the universe came out of a god’s whim and it took it 6 days to build but apparently only a second to eat a magic fruit that made it all bad.

        Does your Torah not mention any of that?

      • The fact that the Torah says that the world was created at some point makes it no different than many other religious texts so what is the point?

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