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November 25, 2011 10:00 am

Atheist, Heal Thyself: The Myths of Atheism

avatar by Moshe Averick

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American Atheists billboard attacking religious "myths"

An organization called American Atheists has sponsored a billboard (see accompanying  photo) in New York City designed to expose some of the “myths” of religious belief. From the images portrayed – the pagan god Neptune, Jesus, Santa Claus, and the Devil – one would draw the obvious conclusion that the main thrust of the attack is against Christians and Christianity. However, my guess is that if they had enough money, they would put up billboards attacking other faith communities as well. Because I am a proponent of ecumenicism, I will return the favor and elaborate on some of the myths of the Atheistic faith.

Myth #1: Scientific facts support the atheistic notion that life emerged from non-life through an undirected, naturalistic process.

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Fact: The simplest living organism that has ever been known to exist – some form of bacteria – contains molecular machinery that is more sophisticated and more functionally complex than anything human technology can produce. It has a self-replicating mechanism that is beyond all known human engineering capabilities, based on the storage, retrieval, and translation of encyclopedic amounts of pure, digitally encoded information. In fact, it is highly misleading, if not downright false to describe a bacterium as “simple” at all. As James Shapiro, the University of Chicago microbiologist put it, “Although bacteria are tiny, they display biochemical, structural and behavioral complexities that outstrip scientific description. In keeping with the current microelectronics revolution, it may make more sense to equate their size with sophistication rather than with simplicity.”

The atheist would have us believe that the bacterium assembled itself from non-organic chemicals over a period of several million? tens of millions? hundreds of millions? years, through some as yet unknown process and emerged as a fully functioning living organism approximately 3.8 billion years ago (or maybe earlier, nobody really knows). The only known source of functionally complex machinery and specified information is some sort of intelligent agent. What scientific evidence does the atheist have that it is possible for life to come from non-life by itself? In the words of distinguished Harvard University paleontologist, Dr. Andrew Knoll, “We don’t know how life started on this planet. We don’t know exactly when it started, we don’t know under what circumstances.” Origin of Life researcher, Dr. Paul Davies put it in simpler terms, “We haven’t a clue.” In other words, ZERO evidence.

Myth #2: Modern Science debunks the notion of the spiritual; our entire reality and all of human experience can be explained as a function of atoms, molecules, and the laws of chemistry and physics.

Fact: Not only is this patently false, but scientists are stymied in their attempts to explain even such a common and basic human ability like verbal communication, in material terms. I will briefly elaborate. Imagine two men; one is an American who only speaks English, one is Chinese and only speaks Chinese. Both are thirsty and desire liquid refreshment. In other words, both are thinking essentially the same thought; namely, that they want to imbibe liquid into their bodies. Each turns to the other and in their respective language, asks for a drink of water. Of course, neither has any idea what the other is talking about. Why? It is because the thought, “I want a drink of water,” is completely separate and different than the words, “I want a drink of water.” The words themselves mean nothing at all. They are arbitrary sounds that represent thoughts, ideas, concepts, emotions, i.e., information. When I am thirsty and want to ask someone for a drink, I proceed to form a series of arbitrary and intrinsically senseless sounds with my mouth. These sounds travel through the air where they are heard by another person, who then decodes these sounds and brings me a glass of water. We take it for granted because we do it all the time, but what is transpiring is nothing short of miraculous. I am taking ideas in my head and sending them through the air to others. I am attaching ideas to sound waves. The words (i.e. the sounds), that I spoke were arbitrary and meaningless, but the information was very specific and very meaningful. Words and sounds do not equal information, words and sounds represent information. The information itself cannot be defined in material terms.

This is the reason why a scientist can measure the electrical activity in my brain when I speak, measure the sound waves as they travel through the air, and measure the electrical activity in the brain of the listener. There is no possible way for him to measure the idea, message, or information that was conveyed, because the information cannot be defined in terms of atoms or molecules at all. It exists in time but not space. Evolutionary biologist, George Williams, put it this way, “You can speak of galaxies and particles of dust in the same terms because they both have mass and charge and length and width. [But] you can’t do that with information and matter…Information doesn’t have mass or charge or length in millimeters.” Even a self-declared “proud atheist” like the celebrated Harvard cognitive scientist, Dr. Steven Pinker, can barely contain his wonder and awe when contemplating the human capacity for language. In the opening paragraph of his award winning book, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language, Pinker writes, “You are taking part in one of the wonders of the natural world. For you and I are members of a species with a remarkable ability…that ability is language…the ability comes so naturally that we are apt to forget what a miracle it is.”

A miracle, indeed. All day long we are involved in binding together the spiritual reality of ideas and information, with the physical reality of sound. We are just so used to it, that most of us never take the trouble to think about what is actually happening.

Myth #3: The “soul” does not exist. Human consciousness and self-awareness can all be explained and understood as projections of physical, neural activity.

Fact: Scientists haven’t the slightest idea how to explain or define consciousness in material terms.

On this subject, atheistic philosopher, Dr. Julian Baggini, writes in his book, Atheism: A Short Introduction, “What best explains the correlation between consciousness and brain activity…[the] atheist hypothesis that consciousness is a product of brain activity or an implausible tale about how non-material souls exist alongside brains and somehow interact with them?” First of all, to cavalierly dismiss the notion of a non-material soul as an implausible tale, when billions of human beings from every conceivable race, culture, geographical location and level of education claim an intuitive and experiential connection with its reality, is a flagrant display of intellectual laziness and pompousness. It is clear that no matter what conclusion is reached the honest thinker must consider both sides of the argument. Be that as it may, what does Science actually have to tell us about the fundamental and essential nature of human consciousness? Consider the following statements by atheistic scientists:

“Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious.” (Dr. Jerry Fodor, Professor of Philosophy and cognitive scientist, Rutgers University)

“The problem of consciousness tends to embarrass biologists. Taking it to be an aspect of living things, they feel they should know about it and be able to tell physicists about it, whereas they have nothing relevant to say…consciousness seems to me to be wholly impervious to science. It does not lie as an indigestible element within science, but just the opposite. Science is the highly digestible element within consciousness.” (Dr. George Wald, Nobel Prize winning biologist)

“The Hard Problem…is why there is first-person subjective experience. The Hard Problem is explaining how subjective experience arises from neural computation. The problem is hard, because no one knows what a solution might look like…everyone agrees that the Hard Problem remains a mystery.” (Dr. Steven Pinker)

“Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness” (Dr. Nick Herbert, physicist)

In fact, atheists simply accept as an article of faith that consciousness has no spiritual basis: “Resolutely shunning the supernatural…it must be in virtue of some natural property of the brain that organisms are conscious. There just has to be some explanation for how brains [interact] with minds…Consciousness, in short, must be a natural phenomena.” (Colin McGinn, atheistic philosopher)

Enough said.

Myth #4: It is religion that is responsible for most wars, cruelty, and atrocities. If mankind would rid itself of religion, life would be better for all of us.

Within several decades of the publication of On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin, the zealously atheistic ideology of Communism emerged as a force to be reckoned with. The greatest mass murderers in the history of mankind were to be atheistic, communist ideologues; among them were Josef Stalin, Mao-Tse-Tung, and Pol-Pot. Sam Harris, atheist author and neuroscientist, arrogantly proclaims in his best-selling manifesto, The End of Faith, “ideas which divide one group of human beings from another, only to unite them in slaughter, generally have their roots in religion.” Mr. Harris would do better in the future to avoid speaking in generalities, because specifically, the greatest mass murderers have all been his fellow-atheists. There is no denying that terrible things have been done in the name of religion, but one could reasonably propose that the only thing more dangerous is an ideology based on atheism.

What about religious “myths”?

The skeptic/atheist is unquestionably correct when he points out that the theologies of major religions are mutually exclusive. In other words, no matter how politically correct one desires to be, it is simply absurd to assert that they are all true. To be blunt, there are only two possibilities: a. they are all false, or b. only one of them is true, and the rest are false. We are talking here, of course, about divine revelation. There are many people who believe in God the Creator and the basic spiritual nature of human beings, without believing or accepting any particular claim of revelation. It is important to understand that these are two completely separate issues. In my opinion, the evidence for the existence of God and the soul are so clear that the burden is on the atheist to disprove them. In my book, Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist, I offer a comprehensive presentation of the subject. At the same time, I acknowledge that it makes no sense at all for anyone to believe in a claim of divine revelation just because someone says so. In other words, there certainly are religious myths out there. However, if you are going to engage in childish public displays of ideological taunting, you had better be sure you have first taken a good look at yourself in the mirror. It is a human flaw to manufacture, and be drawn to, comforting mythologies. In this respect, the members of the Atheist faith community are as sinful as any others.

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.

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  • Scientific facts support the atheistic notion that life emerged from non-life through an undirected, naturalistic process.

    Yes, that is true.

    There was no director behind the emergence of life, and nothing at all unnatural about it.

  • Adrienne

    If humans are responsible for atrocities, and G-d does not intervene. what is the point of worshiping G-d?

    If our freedom is very real, what’s wrong with not believing in G-d without evidence?

    What about you conceding, for the sake of discussion only, that you need to prove there is a god, instead of putting the proof of a negative on us?

    Have you ever heard of virions?

    http://www.mcb.uct.ac.za/tutorial/virions_are_virus_particles.htm
    ——
    Stop playing the Republican by forgetting the past comments on your thread. All you have to do is a simple search.

  • Adrienne

    Well, the Rabbi seems to have stopped replying. This is really no different from the Catholic blogs I’ve visited. The same logical fallacies, bad science, changing subjects and/or insults when they can’t give a reasonable reply, facts are attacks to their religion, etc.

    It’s amazing how people of different religions, who have been at war with each other for centuries, have united to fight atheism.

    • salvage

      Oh not just atheism, they hate homosexuals enough to gang up on them as well.

      The Rabbi does this, he posts essentially the same post about how atheism is all wrong because (insert tired debunked theistic nonsense here) and then a bunch of commentator ranging from snarky jerks like myself to thoughtful polite folks point out the flaws, Mushe restates the flawed ideas and then falls silent at requests to stop repeating himself and address the points.

      But don’t get me wrong I think it’s great, he just shows how hollow theism is, how it collapses under the slightest of critical thoughts.

      And to be fair I do the same thing on Catholic and other Christian blogs and get banned pretty fast, they seem to have more confidence in their nonsense here than elsewhere for that I have a measure of respect.

      • Adrienne

        Well, at least no one from this site has threatened to kill me, or insulted my looks (which they haven’t seen) or my personal life (of which they know nothing.) The Catholic sites I’ve visited more likely to use ad hominem attacks.

        • Adrienne,

          Wanna send me a picture? What are you wearing?
          Just kidding!

          • Adrienne

            Now who’s being adolescent?

          • salvage

            Wow Mushe, you really are lacking in wit.

            Are you still confused about Pagan religions?

            Do you still not understand what “argumentum ad ignorantiam” is?

            Do you still not understand that the first cell was most likely nothing like the complex modern bacteria?

            Do you still not understand that atheism is the belief that there are no such things as gods? That it makes no comment on anything else?

            So you still not understand that evolution and origins of life are two different subjects?

            Do you still not understand that you can’t separate your god from the one described in the Torah without declaring it to be a whole new and even more unlikely being?

            Do you still not understand that you can’t arbitrarily declare there can be only one of two answers to a question that no one can answer?

            I know you are ignoring me and that’s fine, smarter people are making the same points I do with more class and better grammar so can you at least answer them rather than making clavicle-snapping from the cringe inducing attempts at humor?

            It’s truly baffling, you’re a Rabbi, you wrote a book declaring people who don’t believe in magic are “confused” yet here you are, unable to articulate your deep beliefs beyond debunked Creationist cliches.

            Are you sure you know what you’re talking about?

        • Adrienne,

          Touche!

          • Adrienne

            Now will you answer my other questions?

      • Salvage,

        Without you, my life would be so boring!

      • CrappyCartoons

        Seriously – You are as silly as the idiots who think Religion is the root of War.

        Sigmund Freud was a very vocal atheist. Without any influence from religion Freud created the view of homosexual as a disease in need of treatment.

        If you consider that the United Church of Christ, one of the larger Protestant denominations in the United States, was openly ordaining homosexuals to its clergy in the 1970s while the American Medical Association was still officially listed homosexuality as a disorder in need of treatment, then I think what it is clear that you are obviously spouting a myth that is not based on facts.

  • Gavin

    Adrienne “C y F”,if you are not able to act like an adult please take yourself off somewhere else.

    • Adrienne

      Oh, come on. I stopped already!

    • Adrienne

      The Rabbi’s article is far more insulting than anything I posted.

  • Adrienne

    The article is insulting on many levels, but the one that irritates me is the assumption that atheists must be “cured”, as though we are “sick” by default.

    Atheism is not a disease.

    • moshe averick

      Adrienne,

      Adreienne,

      You need to learn to stick to the issues. I wrote an article and you are responding. Once we are engaged in a dialogue the posturing and saber-rattling must stop or we can’t get anywhere. What I meant by “Heal Thyself” is that while atheists might claim that religious people believe in myths – in fact, if you read the article carefully until the end, I conceded that there certainly are many religious myths out there – Atheist should also look inward to see what their myths are. STop ranting and focus on one point or one question you have and perhaps we can actually get somewhere.

      • salvage

        while atheists might claim that religious people believe in myths –

        No, not might, do. You believe in myths, please tell me that the Torah isn’t stuffed with them.

        Or tell me that you know that Adam and Eve, the Flood and all that malarkey never happened.

        >Atheist should also look inward to see what their myths are.

        Once again, atheism is the belief that there are no such things as gods.

        What possible myth could be extracted from that?

        It’s amazing you wrote a book on a subject that you don’t seem to understand. It’d be like me writing an Internet etiquette guide.

      • Robbie Lombard

        “atheists should also look inward to see what their myths are”

        atheism = the lack of belief….its a position of no value…therefore, a statement of value (a myth) cannot and does not arise out of atheism…there are no “internal atheistic myths”

        what you are describing is that someones refutation of your logic is a myth and this is misleading…

        Myth 1 response – complexity does not imply a creator. It is not “atheistic notion” that life emerged from non life thru naturalistic processes. What you are doing with this statement is combining two different arguments and its very misleading. One, life as we know it has evolved through naturalistic processes and if you dont know this you dont know anything. Second, no atheist, no self-respecting intelligent being would say that life emerged from non-life. As your quote suggests, the answer to the absolute beginning of life is still unknown. But that does not imply it was created.

        Myth 2 response – No atheist claims this statement for science. Science is the first to admit that ‘facts’ as we know them are limited to our understanding of the universe. For example it is impossible to derive facts about a being that exists outside of time and space because as humans we are limited to experience only in the realm of time and space. Science simply tells us that as far as we can understand, there are non-spiritual explanations for all natural phenomena.

        Myth 3 response – Two things: One, atheism in general does not make comment the existence of the ‘soul’. People who describe themselves as atheists may.
        Two, as you say “In fact, atheists simply accept as an article of faith that consciousness has no spiritual basis”…You are half right here. It is accepted that consciousnesses has no spiritual basis but not as an article of faith. I have no reason to move from a position of non-value(lack of belief) to one of value(belief). Therefore, atheism will always assume something is non-spiritual until it is proven to have spiritual ties. This is not “an article of faith”. It is the definition of atheism = non-belief. Where does your assumption of the existence of a ‘soul’ and the role of consciousness come from? For you, it comes from your religious belief, plain and simple.

        Myth 4 response – While I have heard this from a lot of atheists individually this is by no means a claim purposed by atheism its self or atheists in general. However, your turning of the question to Communism brings is once again misleading. Two points you have missed arise out of your argument: One, non-belief does not have a doctrine that instructs atheists to do detestable things, so Communist wrong-doing does not equal atheist wrong-doing. The fact that the “atheist mass murderers” you talk about (which isnt true to begin with) did not believe in God is no different than asserting they were all similar in that they had mustaches. As I mentioned, atheism is a position of zero value and does not have a doctrine or agenda. Two, In Communism, the state IS religion. The largest mass murderers were not atheist (for one, Hitler was a devout catholic). Your final statement is not “reasonably proposed”.

      • Adrienne

        I see other people have responded and I have no need to add more.
        What about you conceding, for the sake of discussion only, that you need to prove there is a god, instead of putting the proof of a negative on us?
        Pretend it is not obvious–tell us what leads you to the conclusion that there is a god and what atheists need to heal?
        You have converts waiting if you can show evidence.

  • Normann Wheland

    “I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
    …Stephen F Roberts

    • moshe averick

      Norman,

      You are mistaken. The One, infinite, transcendent God of the Torah – I am talking about the concept of God, irrespective of the Biblical narrative – is fundamentally different than the pagan concept of gods, be it Roman, Babylonian, Assyrian, Greek or other.

      Pagan gods are essentially super-heroes, like the Flash, Hulk, or Superman. That is radically different than the One God, who exists in neither time nor space, and is composed of neither matter nor energy.

      What was before the big bang? There is no such thing as “before” the Big Bang. There was not time. There is no before the big bang. Where did the big bang take place? It didn’t take place anywhere, there was no space. If our entire physical universe suddenly ceased to exist, what would come after? Nothing, time would also cease to exist, there would be no “after.”

      There is no such thing as before our universe came into existence, it came into existence nowhere, and there is nothing “after” our universe. How did it come to be? What caused it? A being to whom does not apply the concepts of “BEFORE” AND “AFTER” because he is not in time, he created time, a being who exists nowhere, not because he doesnt exist, but because he created space, he does not exist in space.

      that was not meant as a “proof” of God, it was meant to illustrate that if God exists at all, he is that God. This has nothing at all to do with foolish pagan concepts which as I said already are nothing more than comic book figures like the Incredible Hulk.

      • salvage

        >I am talking about the concept of God, irrespective of the Biblical narrative –

        Oh too cute! Your god isn’t the crazy god of the Torah, it’s this nebulous amorphous slick of grey that is so undefinable it must be real!

        >Pagan gods are essentially super-heroes, like the Flash, Hulk, or Superman.

        Yeah, I like the issue where the Flash made the Milky Way by running so fast around the Earth that water got kicked up in the sky! And the sun moves across the sky because the Hulk throws it every morning and the Superman catches it and throws the Moon back!

        No, Moshe, Pagan gods are exactly like your god, world making judgment dealers who demand worship lest they unleash their wrath. They were dreamed up by primitive people terrified of nature and desperate to assert control and understanding over it.

        You really think they built temples, conquered and converted people over superheros like stories? Are you really so ignorant of Ancient Rome as to suggest they looked at their gods as novelty? You know why Hannibal marched over the Alps? Because he made an oath to his god and he knew if he didn’t keep it there would be trouble. The South American natives, you really think they tore the hearts out of their sacrifices for characters they thought fictional?

        The pyramids Moshe THE FREAKING PYRAMIDS!

        Once again, your ignorance, feature or bug I can’t for the life of me tell.

        >There is no such thing as before our universe came into existence

        And you know this how again?

        • Terrible workmanship on those pyramids. You would think they could have hired a decent work force for the project.

          • salvage

            Yeah, but they weren’t serious about them being divine gateways for their living gods to join their celestial counterparts in the afterlife that they spent generations building.

            It’s like those nerds who line up for Star Wars or the guy who makes a really detailed Halo costume for Halloween, just for a lark.

        • Normann Wheland

          Moshe spews more of his ignorant prattle despite our calling him on it time and time again. His knowledge of modern cosmology and ancient mythology are equally lacking. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

      • Normann Wheland

        Moshe says: ” … the One God, who exists in neither time nor space, and is composed of neither matter nor energy.”

        Indeed I would agree and paraphrase thusly: your god doesn’t exist and is made up of nothing. Congrats, you are finally beginning to shake off your delusions.

  • Adrienne

    If you are asking theological questions then I can only answer from a Jewish perspective. God certainly does intervene. From the course of Jewish history it is clear
    that God does intervene. However, God intervening does not mean that he always frustrates human free-will. Our freedom is very real, if it wasn’t we’d be programmed robots.
    Obviously, this question requires a long discussion to be fully dealt with, but it is a very important question
    Moshe

    I couldn’t find your reply, which I pasted above so that I could respond.

    If the Jewish perspective is the only way you can answer a theological question, I suggest you look at other religions instead of just atheists who have no religion. The atheist experience does not include a G-d and therefore it is not compatible. You consider that your faith, unprovable as it is, is better than no faith at all. We will always disagree. Science is not a religion, and religion cannot be a science.

    A more relevant stand would be why it is better to believe the Jewish faith over any other religion.

    History is written by the people in power, and is revised when new regimes change. This was especially true before the internet, which many conservatives are trying to censor. Book burning and destruction of art is a necessary part of any conquest.

    If our freedom is very real, what’s wrong with not believing in G-d without evidence? The flaw in any religion is that gods need worshipers or they are no longer relevant. If you don’t believe, Tinkerbell will disappear.

    • moshe averick

      Adriene,

      Your reply surprised me because you asked a theological question. How can I possibly answer a question about God and prayer without offering a religious perspective. If you don’t believe in God the question is absurd.

      I obviously disagree with you about whether or not their is evidence for the truth of Torah, but it would seem to be pointless to get into that discussion until we would both agree on the existence of God.

      If a person is disinclined to believe in God, then I think it makes perfect sense to seek out evidence before believing. That’s what my entire book is about.

      • Adrienne

        I obviously disagree with you about whether or not their is evidence for the truth of Torah, but it would seem to be pointless to get into that discussion until we would both agree on the existence of God.

        I just said that it is impossible that we agree on the existence of God. If I told you I believe in God, I would be lying. If I did believe in God, I wouldn’t be an atheist. Even if I allowed for the sake of argument the existence of God, our discussion, then what would be the point? You would win by default.

        I gather from the conversations on this post that the book you are trying to sell me has the same arguments that have been debunked many times before–so would you, for the sake of argument, allow that there is no God?

        Again, your religion is not the only one and I suggest you look at other religions. Then you can argue as to why your god is better than any other.

        You may even understand why atheists reject the god idea altogether.

        By the way, I don’t think my question about believing in a god that won’t intervene to stop or prevent human atrocities was theological. It is more a practical question.

  • Just in case you missed it, I’ll repost this.

    Moshe Averick,
    I notice that you haven’t addressed a few issues I mentioned.

    First, you state that “The atheist would have us believe that the bacterium assembled itself…”, and you also state that nobody has a proven theory of abiogenesis. I would like to know to which atheist you are referring in your article. You clearly feel that someone is attempting to convince the public of something that is not true. I’d like to hear your basis for this belief.

    Second, you assert that atheists or scientists must provide a theory for the origin of life. You have not provided any reason for this assertion, yet it seems fairly central to your argument. Why must science or atheists provide proof of how life originated?

    You have recently introduced a third assertion, that there should be some sort of time limit or deadline set for science. Again, you provide no basis for this assertion. Please, by all means, educate us.

    So far our discussion hasn’t moved beyond the first myth in the article, and you’ve provided at least three myths as the foundation of your reasoning. This is inauspicious to say the least.

    Regards,
    A.F.

    • moshe averick

      Andrew,

      I thought I addressed your points but I’ll try again.

      1. There are only two possible causes for the FIRST living bacterium, A non-physical intelligent agent (if its the first living organism there is nothing else physical that could have assembled it) or an undirected naturalistic process. If you a priori deny the existence of such a creator the only choice left is that it somehow self assembled through whatever process you speculatively can conceive. AS of today, there is not plausible theory how this might have occured. If you are an atheist you are implicitly stating that this is what happened.

      2. There are levels of functional complexity and specified information that the human mind cannot conceivably accept were the result of an undirected process. My suit, the articles on the front page of the Boston Globe, a bicycle all are well over that line (whatever it is). The level of functional complexity of the nanomachinery of a bacterium and the breathtaking sophistication of the genetic code are also well over that line. In fact they are beyond the ability of any human technology that exists today to reproduce. (that doesn’t mean that it will remain that way, but of course that is beside the point) The obvious conclusion is that, just like the suit, articles in the Globe, and the bicycle, the functional complexity of the bacterium is the result of intelligent agency. I am prepared to accept that it is the result of an undirected process, but you must prove or demonstrate that such a thing is possible. This is what Richard Dawkins meant when he wrote that he could not imagine being an atheist before 1859. Of course, he made a serious mistake. Origin of Life has nothing to do with evolution. Evolution occurs only after life begins, or until some fantastic self replicating molecular machinery exists. As non-believing NYU professor of philosophy Thomas Nagel pointed out in his review of The God Delusion:
      The staggeringly complex genetic machinery must be in place in order for evolution to begin. Dawkins has explained the functional complexity of the living world in terms of something that is just as functionally complex as what he set out to explain in the first place. For the exact quote, see my book or article on this site “Dear Professor Dawkins…”

      3. I have had many non-believers tell me that my basic thesis about Origin of Life makes perfect sense, except that how do I know Science won’t find an answer. At what point are you prepared to admit that there is not plausible answer? If you say forever, then you are telling me that you have accepted as an article of faith that science will eventually find an answer and you never have to confront the issue. If I told you that God spoke at Mount Sinai and you ask me for evidence that it is true and I told you that I don’t have evidence but if you wait long enough I might find evidence, we both understand that this is a ridiculous assertion that can be rejected. There are no examples of those certain levels of functional complexity and specified information that can result without intervention of an intelligent agent. The burden of proof (a very heavy burden, I might add) is on you to prove that such a thing is possible. Until then, my viewpoint is perfectly reasonable.

      Hope this response is adequate. For a full treatment, please see my book. About a third of the book is devoted to a comprehensive presentation of this issue.

      • salvage

        1. There are only two possible causes for the FIRST living bacterium

        Once again, argument from ignorance. Why can’t you understand that? You are basically saying we don’t know the answer therefore there must be only two answers and one of them doesn’t make sense so it HAS to be a god!

        And by amazing coincidence you know about this god that makes universes! Mystery solved, tell Mulder and Scully to go home, this x-file is closed!

        >that the human mind cannot conceivably accept were the result of an undirected process

        To repeat, the process is directed, we can see the direction, there is no indication of any sort that a god is doing the directing. From parasites to lampreys to lions ripping other animals apart to live if it is directed it’s by the same guy that did the “Saw” movies and the only thing sicker is to worship it.

        >but you must prove or demonstrate that such a thing is possible.

        It’s called evolution and it’s been proven.

        Why can’t you learn new stuff?

        >. I have had many non-believers tell me that my basic thesis about Origin of Life makes perfect sense

        Then they are wrong and they need to read more.

        >At what point are you prepared to admit that there is not plausible answer? If you say forever, then you are telling me that you have accepted as an article of faith that science will eventually find an answer and you never have to confront the issue.

        Oh wow.

        So… what you’re saying is that if science can’t find the answer we have to give up and admit it was magic all along?

        Mushe, we have already found so many answers to so many of the questions that you lot attributed to gods.

        Here’s the reality… I know, you have trouble with the stuff but focus… if tomorrow Dawkins announced that they’ve cracked it, that they can demonstrate how a single cell could come together to form DNA and replicate itself in nature and the lab would you really roll up your Torah, shutter the temple, shave the beard, lose the beanie, shake the hands of women and mutter “Well, it was a fun ride, time to get a job!”

        No, what you would do is pick up the goal posts and drag ’em down the field while whistling hava nagila plant them and declare “Oh sure, they can make life but… er… um… THE SOUL! Those cells don’t have it, can you explain souls Mr Fancy Scientist? No? Well there you go! My god is real!”

        Mushe, you need your fix, you need your god, your delusion that we live in a controlled orderly universe with an all powerful father figure (stern but fair!) watching over you, making you feel safe, secure, powerful, and special and in the end will reward you for your faith.

        The hook is too deep, science has performed miracle that your god couldn’t even imagine (if it did it sure kept quiet) and even that can’t shake it lose.

        Doesn’t matter if science doesn’t find all the answers, it’s found more than enough to prove its authority to anyone with sense. Your god? Can’t even prove it knows how the world it claims it made was made.

      • Moshe Averick,

        “If you are an atheist you are implicitly stating that this is what happened.”

        First of all, that’s not true. Second, this isn’t an answer to my question. This is a restating of your second assertion, that there must be an explanation for the origin of life. The question was, which atheist wants you to believe that they have knowledge of the origin of life? Your assumption that this is implied contradicts your statement that atheists, science and scientists explicitly say the opposite. I would like to hear how you justify the discrepancy.

        “Evolution occurs only after life begins, or until some fantastic self replicating molecular machinery exists.”

        Agreed, but this also doesn’t answer my question. Why must science provide a theory of the origin of life? You seem to think science only works in a specific order. Science does not work that way. If it did, there would be no science. What you’re implying is that no knowledge is valid until we have all knowledge.

        “At what point are you prepared to admit that there is not [a] plausible answer?”

        This is, again, just a restating of your original assertion. It’s interesting, though, that the sentence above very nearly sums up the difference between religion and atheism. The atheist answer is, “I admit and, in fact, assert that there is currently no plausible answer to the question of how life originated.” Again, my question to you is, how do you justify putting a time limit on science before defaulting to mythology?

        Your viewpoint looks reasonable until you consider the fallacious assertions underpinning it.

        Regards,
        A.F.

        • moshe averick


          Andrew,

          I am struggling to understand your reply. But maybe if we focus on one small point we can get somewhere:
          Moshe: If you are an atheist you are implicitly stating that this is what happened.”

          Andrew: First of all, that’s not true

          Please clarify this, it seems clear to me that if you don’t believe in some transcendent creative force, then you must believe that life emerged through an undirected naturalistic process

          Please only respond to this one point in as short an answer as possible so we don’t get lost.

          • Moshe Averick,
            I believe in neither. Of the two, I would say that a transcendent creative force seems to be the less likely option, given that that there are tangible examples of natural forces in the world, and by definition none of supernatural forces. In either event there is clearly not enough evidence to make an assertion, though, so it would be illogical and irrational to declare that either is true.

        • Andrew,

          I’m not talking about which option you think is more likely. I’m saying there are only two options. If you are an atheist you have picked one over the other. If you are saying it’s a toss up, that would seem to be an agnostic position. Is that correct?

          • Moshe Averick,
            You could describe it as agnostic, I suppose.

      • Chester

        “If you a priori deny the existence of such a creator the only choice left is that [life] somehow self assembled through whatever process you speculatively can conceive. AS of today, there is not plausible theory how this might have occured. “[sic.]

        I would like to point out that, before our friend Sir Isaac Newton came along, the physical properties of gravity were not proven, let alone theorized. Now, we know that all matter has an attractive force to other matter, which is why the moon causes the tides to go in and out. Simply because there was neither proof nor theory regarding gravitational force does not mean gravity did not exist before Newton began publishing his work.

        Similarly, the lack of a sound theory about the origins of life from a scientific standpoint does not rule out non-theistic origins of life.

        “The greatest mass murderers in the history of mankind were to be atheistic, communist ideologues; among them were Josef Stalin, Mao-Tse-Tung, and Pol-Pot. ”

        I find the link you establish between communism and atheism childish at best. I do appreciate your argument that it is not just religious fanatics that commit genocide, but please, do not associate two rather different ideologies. Communism is a political/economical system in which the community (hence the name) ensures the even distribution of resources and justice; no governing body to ensure everyone gets their dues (that would be socialism). I shall define atheism from its root-words: A-, the prefix, meaning not or opposite, and theism, or belief in supernatural powers. Atheism: No belief in supernatural powers. I realise this is a stupendously rough definition, but what I am getting at is that communism and atheism have little to do with one-another. Now, onto the real argument.

        Have you ever heard of the Cult of Personality? It is something so-called “communist” dictators practiced in the Cold-War era. Stalin and Mao were two of the more famous cases. They set themselves up for worship. Maybe not supernatural, but worship nonetheless. They were seen as immaculate, infallible, as the epitomes of their causes. There is video evidence of Stalin entering an auditorium, and of the crowd applauding for several minutes, each individual afraid of being the first to stop. Let’s see… perfection, love/fear relationship… an individual causing millions of people to go to war, throwing their own lives away for a cause? Stalin and Mao might have been irreverent of any power higher than themselves, but to the people they were gods, and it was the people who went to war.

        Also, just because religious people did something, but atheists did it to, does not mean that religious people are absolved. Yes, atheists have made wars. But we had decent reasons for doing so. Self defense. Protecting the weak. Removing cruel tyrants. Making the world safe for democracy (I don’t know what that meant either; and please note: I am not saying mass murdering nutheads have good reasons for waging war). In the Crusades, religion waged war on everyone else. It was a hate crime that no one has been charged for. Wasn’t there something in a book once about Thou Shalt Refrain From Killing or something like that? Granted, that might have been a DIFFERENT god that told people that, but when you claim there is but one god, people might get the picture that really they are the same god. The one from the Bible and the Torah and the Koran and the Book of Mormon and every other monotheistic text out there. So many million people claim there is only one god, but they are all different Prime Movers? Unlikely. If one of the single Supreme Beings claimed that killing is bad, my bet is that all of them did. Therefore, anyone who claims to make war in the name of a god is, to be quite frank, a looney.

        If you are going to make war, come up with a better reason that “God told me to.” We have places for people who hear voices telling them to do things. They are called Insane Asylums. They are a safe place where the self-proclaimed Prophet cannot hurt innocent people.

        Oh my. I have come off as rambling and insulting. You have my assurance that this outcome was unintentional. Yes, I am a jerk. Yes, I am insulting religious people. But you know what? They did it first. We atheists put up a billboard. proclaiming an idea false. Bible-thumpers put up billboards calling human beings all sorts of synonyms for evil. You threaten us. Insult us. Mock us. Gang up on us in your overwhelming numbers and claim that WE are the illogical ones? WE are the haters? We are merely reacting to what has been done to us since Man first denied the existence of a god.

  • Adrienne

    The greatest strength of scientific method is its ability to admit that an hypothesis is disproved.

    Religious method cannot tolerate the possibility of being disproved–because, in essence, it is a theory of method that has been disproved as a practical means of understanding the world. Prayer has been dis-proven as an effective measure. Evolution has evidence, while religious “theory” has nothing to support its relevance with reality. Parents have let their children die because they believed in prayer and not in the science that could have saved the life of their child.

    Religion is a theory that was not developed under Scientific Theory. It is a pseudoscience that does not work anymore, and still has adherents because they have been indoctrinated (as they claim atheists are) in their belief. Astrologists, herbalists, homeopaths, tarot readers, etc. are also failed hypotheses that are popular in the 21st Century. How can anyone tell which works in reality?

    Trial and error is the only way to learn what can be valid and useable experience. It takes testing, not blind faith.

    So, again, Chuck you Farley, our life is all the time we have. Live for today–there is no afterlife or better place for human life than Earth.

    • moshe averick

      Adrien,
      What is this Chuck you farley stuff. it seems kind of adolescent

      • salvage

        This, this point he answers, what about the others Mushe?

  • Adrienne

    Oh, and another thing:

    You are a Rabbi, not a scientist. Speak from your profession as a “spiritual leader,” not as a realist–you are not qualified.

  • Emma

    Regarding the argument from language, I’d like to add my two cents. You touched on a very important point: words are simply sound waves that some humans have agreed with on their meaning. The reason that Chinese (which is actually a macrolanguage by the way) and English are unintelligible is because they do not use grammar or words that represent the same things. Humans are unique in that we can use sounds to represent abstract concepts and convey them to someone else who is familiar with what we are trying to say. But both the speaker and the listener have to be familiar with the language to understand the meaning of the words. This is why you can understand me if I type in English (you are familiar with it and have been taught that these symbols and words have abstract meanings) but not in Chinese (you are probably not familiar with the characters). You do not need to know a language to learn a language – no one is born with the knowledge of speaking English or Chinese or Hebrew or any other language. It has to be taught through the environment. Deaf children mimic their deaf parents’ hand signs. Other babies babble and make nonsense syllables until their parents notice that they have made a word they recognize, and then praise them for it. For several years after a baby’s birth, its brain is constantly acclimating to the linguistic climate around it so that it can understand and express itself in speech and the written word.

    The phrase “Martinek egunkariak erosten dizkit” is nonsense to us. Although we know that the individual symbols can be broken down into sounds *that we have assigned them*, we don’t think that this phrase has any meaning whatsoever. However, to a person who speaks Basque, they know that this is a sentence which means “Martin buys the newspapers for me.” Without that “agreement” between the lines on the screen and the meaning we have assigned them, these words really don’t have any objective or ultimate meaning. They are just lines on a screen.

    I consider language to be very similar to a living creature. It evolves and diversifies the same way a species does. (You’d probably object to this analogy, though.) We can see this change happening each generation, as the English lexicon expands to encompass vocabulary pertaining to new technology (blog, vlog, email, Xerox) but discards words that have fallen out of use (aerodrone, alienism, and wittol are three rare words that are slated to be removed from upcoming dictionaries). On a greater level, grammar can change immensely as well – this is why Shakespearian plays have to be translated into modern English on the opposite page. Individual sounds change over time: Just ask a British man what he thinks of Americans and their poor enunciation. When two dialects of a language become so different and so divergent that the two populations can no longer agree on the meaning of words or phrases, it means the languages are unintelligible. It means they are different languages, or different species. (Although Scots is classified as an independent language, some people still say it’s just a dialect of English and looks like one if you squint hard enough.)

    As for consciousness, there’s no evidence that we’re anything more than our brains. Also, one’s personality and skills can be affected greatly by differences in the brain. Neuroscientists have found that many brain disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, etc.) can be traced back to differences in the brain, which can be traced back to one’s genes. There’s a number of cases of how brain damage affects a person here (http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/ghost.html#part2). It’s a thick read but the part that I especially wanted to draw your attention to is the story about the Jesuit priest who goes through a scuba diving accident and wakes up unable to feel concern.

    • Emma,

      You are mistaken, there is a wealth of evidence that we are more than our brains. Language is one of them.
      YOu did not address the essential point, that the sounds are completely meaningless yet I can somehow convey an idea to you. There is a non-physical entity that travels via the meaningless sounds from my head to your head. It is not physical at all. Nobody understands how this is possible. That is what Pinker means when he calls it a miracle. He obviously thinks that one day a purely physical, material explanation wil be found. He avoids the question by saying that the brain is too complex for us to understand, but he still avoids the question. I defy any scientist to demonstrate a purely physical, chemical, material basis for language. Pinker also asserts, with no evidence to back him up , that there is no executive “I” that controls our thoughts and actions. Of course this is obviously false. “Who” decided that there is no executive “I”. The statement itself folds in on itself and leads to absurdities. Our knowledge of self is not an expression of the brain; our knowledge of having a brain is a perception and evaluation of the “self”. There is much more, but that is why I wrote a book on the subject.

      • Emma

        The only thing traveling between the speaker and the listener is sound waves that both parties have agreed upon with a meaning. There is nothing magical about spoken language. Again, with my example in Basque, if the Basque language never existed, then that clump of letters would not mean anything. It does not continue to have meaning if the language never existed.

  • Adrienne

    I forgot to put my reference:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GUI_ML1qkQE

    If you’re anything like the National Catholic Register, you will probably delete my comment anyway.

  • Adrienne

    You may have the scientific theory, but your conclusions are wrong.
    Regarding “Myth #4,” Greta Christina put it best when she pointed out the major difference between religious atrocities and atheist or secular atrocities: except for the fanatics who substitute the secular ideas for their “religion”, atrocities stopped when the tyrant died and/or people realized the idealistic society they wanted to create did not work.
    Religion’s ideal society is supposed to be experienced AFTER WE ARE DEAD. No one can come back to tell us if it works or not. So people like you continue to believe that certain things atheists would consider as atrocities are justified by your G-d.
    Christians Jews and Muslims kill each other because their religion tells them they are “chosen” by G-d to rule the earth. Consequently, any atrocity they commit is G-d’s will and will be forgiven.
    If atheists depend on their senses for reality, religion gets people to give up their senses–they can’t smell the stink, see the broken bodies, or hear the cries of the people they oppress.
    So, Chuck you Farley–religion is evil.

    • moshe averick

      Adrienne,

      You raise an interesting point. However, it is beside the point that I was making. My point was that in 70 short years atheist ideologues were able to murder 70-100,000,00 people. They did not come to their senses. Communism was defeated by the West. If we had not stood up to them and fought them, the soviet union would still be murdering people and enslaving millions in the Gulag. China is still run by a brutal vicious government. Christianity, in the west, has changed radically over the years and does not massacre people in the name of God anymore. When was the last time you heard of Jews massacring anybody in the name of God, unless you are talking about Biblical incidents that happened well over 3000 years ago? This is not to say that atheists will automatically commit mass murder nor is it saying that religion cannot be extremely dangerous as is certainly the case with a significant part of the Moslem world today. Fanaticism, extremism, and the capacity for brutality, are HUMAN flaws that tempt all human beings.

      In my book I spend 60 pages discussing the relationship and implications of atheism, belief in God and moral values. It is a complex subject. I was simply trying to point out that there is not a simple formula or sound bite that resolves the issue. American democracy is built on the concept of all men being CREATED equal and having been endowed by their CREATOR with unalienable rights. I don’t see how it is possible to find a more compelling and effective basis for building what probably both of us would agree is a moral and just society. The atheist notion that all human beings -in fact all life – emerged by a fluke out of a pre-biotic pool of slime, is a highly problematic principle on which to base morality. What this implies is that the human being is to the cockroach what a cockroach is to a paramecium, just a higher developed form of life but no more or less significant.

      A discussion of the particulars of religious faiths, be it Judaism or Christianity is well beyond the scope of this forum. But at least consider the notion that the idea that we all stand equal and accountable before our infinite Creator gives us a meaningful place to start.

      • salvage

        >Christianity, in the west, has changed radically over the years and does not massacre people in the name of God anymore.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_Genocide

        >When was the last time you heard of Jews massacring anybody in the name of God

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabra_and_Shatila_massacre

        >My point was that in 70 short years atheist ideologues were able to murder 70-100,000,00 people

        It’s a cute argument, theism used to be bad but atheism is bad recently so it’s worse!

        Except you silly little man, as has been explained, those were communists killing for communism not atheism.

        Moshe, your obtuseness, feature or a bug?

        >all stand equal and accountable before our infinite Creator gives us a meaningful place to start.

        “Infinite Creator”? Oh Moshe, that sounds so new-agey! Look at you, trying to make your god be all open-minded and relaxed but I’ve read its salad days stories, it actually views anyone who doesn’t worship it as, at the very least, a breaker of it’s commandments. Or did Moses just bring down rough guidelines?

        So very confusing, are you sure it’s true? One would think the truth would be easier to follow.

      • Moshe Averick,
        So far Christian governments alone, not religion in general but just Christianity, has killed at least 134 million people that we know of. That’s not including slavery, famine, or disease spread by Christians, and many of those took place at a time when the people recording the death toll (i.e, those committing the atrocities) didn’t consider women, children, or Jews to be people. The death toll from communist governments, which you attribute to atheism, stands at 103 million.

        Please, explain to me again how religious morality is the foundation for a just society.

        Regards,
        A.F.

      • Adrienne

        Nevertheless, the argument of pointing to Atheists and saying “look what you’ve done!” does not excuse what people have done in the name of religion has been perpetuated for millenia.
        Secular causes, if proved wrong, last maybe half a century because when they don’t pan out, people get ashamed of genocide and try something else. Military might, not G-d’s wrath, won against Communism, because Capitalism, which has a Christian face these days. They are NOT less awful. The Russians are getting their version of Christianity as they become capitalist. Religion supports science that improves the ways people kill one another, but science that can improve human life and save the planet is suppressed. Religions want the Apocalypse to happen, so that they will be “proved” righteous for their beliefs by G-d’s judgement. If religion continues, Earth will be another rock in space before its time.

        Please, before it’s too late, face reality.

      • Adrienne

        P.S.
        If humans are responsible for atrocities, and G-d does not intervene. what is the point of worshiping G-d? (I am using the term G-d because it is my understanding that your religion does not use the word God.)
        All religions get upset when there is protest against the injustices they impose.

      • Normann Wheland

        Moshe Averick said: “The atheist notion that all human beings -in fact all life – emerged by a fluke out of a pre-biotic pool of slime, is a highly problematic principle on which to base morality.”

        Your worst straw-man fallacy isn’t improved with repetition. In fact, it is just dishonest B.S. to mischaracterize atheism in this manner. Atheism in its purest form posits no such theory about abiogenesis, but rather simply states, “There is no credible evidence or logically sound arguments for the existence of God, so unless and until such evidence/arguments appear, there is no reason to believe.”

        I assume that you, Rabbi, are an atheist with respect to the gods Thor, Zeus, Apollo, Shiva, Vishnu, etc., etc., etc.

  • Sam

    None of this is my field, but I have read some of the atheistic authors mentioned in this piece (and am an atheist myself, insofar as if you ask me if I believe in god(s), the answer is no, as I don’t believe in anything else for which there’s zero evidence), but I think the author doesn’t accomplish much by quoting these authors and saying, in effect, “see, even they don’t know!” So what? We learn more every day. And “I don’t know” isn’t synonymous with “god did it. And to thank him, we must burn meat because he likes the smell of it.”
    I would say the real myth is that atheists think they have all the answers. I certainly don’t. But I know what experts say, I know what sounds plausible, I know what has the most convincing evidence. The god answer is none of those things.
    Isn’t “I don’t know, let’s keep looking” a better response than, “God’s breath and Adam’s rib, now bow and pray” as regards the beginning of life? I don’t know how literally the author reads the Hebrew bible, but what is his answer? How is the unknowable God a satisfactory answer?
    As for spirituality, well heck, I just had my heart warmed last night while watching “Make Way for Tomorrow” on DVD. I felt good when I picked up money a guy had dropped and returned it to him. I like my wife’s embrace. I like standing on the beach and taking in the ocean’s expanse. You can call that spirituality; I call it my brain releasing a chemical that makes me feel good.
    And finding a tree carving with English words on it is an obvious sign of intelligence — because writing is learned. What about natural life is so obviously learned to have necessitated a creator?
    Lastly, as for becoming self-aware, I don’t think the idea that we are infused with a soul is an intellectually satisfying answer. Where does it reside? Of what stuff is it made? The best explanation I’ve heard about consciousness is that the human brain needed a CEO to regulate all of the unconscious stuff our brain does (i.e., just about everything). We’re aware to keep track of the input-response game.
    Sorry this post is so long.

    • moshe averick

      Sam,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments and questions
      I will respond to your first point so as to keep things from getting overly complicated.

      First of all as I have said in response to a number of commenters and I have also stated very clearly in my book, when we discuss origin of life we are not in any way discussing the truth of Jewish Scripture. It is certainly possible that there is a creator of life and Jewish scripture is a completely man made text. That discussion is a completely different undertaking and is not on the table at all.

      It seems to me that the only reason you differentiate between the carving on the tree and the bacterium is that you have not quite grasped what is going on inside the simplest living cell. The encyclopedic amount of information stored in the DNA of the simplest bacterium is in pure digital form. There is a storage system, a retrieval system and a translation system. It is a code that directs the production of staggeringly complex protein chains that sustain the life of the cell. The code has no chemical basis, By that I mean that there are no particular chemical properties that the determine the order of the nucleobases on the double helix of the DNA.

      A highly accurate metaphor would be a set of magnetic letters on a refrigerator door. While it is true that all the letters stick to the door because of the same physical principle, namely magnetic attraction, there is absolutely no reason at all why they should be lined up in any particular order. That is why if you walk into the kitchen and the letters are arranged in a way that they spell, “Hi Sam,we are having your favorite dinner tonite, steak and mashed potatoes” you don’t need to investigate whether or not an intelligent agent arranged them that way or you little three year old was playing with the letters and they just happened to come up that way.

      The arrangement of Adenine, guanine,cytosine and thymine on the DNA double helix are exactly analogous.
      There are no chemical or physical reasons why they should be in any particular order. They can be arranged in any order at all. However they are arranged in such a way that they CODE for the production of the fantastic molecular machinery that drives the cell. The obvious answer is intelligent agency.

      If you feel that we should give scientists more time to figure out a naturalistic reason, then be my guest. I think it is absurd as trying to come up with a naturalistic explanation for the letters on the refrigerator, however at the very least, it seems you should acknowledge that intelligent design is a very reasonable possibility that should be considered. How much time do you think we should give the scientists?

      • Moshe Averick,
        I notice that you haven’t addressed a few issues I mentioned.

        First, you state that “The atheist would have us believe that the bacterium assembled itself…”, and you also state that nobody has a proven theory of abiogenesis. I would like to know to which atheist you are referring in your article. You clearly feel that someone is attempting to convince the public of something that is not true. I’d like to hear your basis for this belief.

        Second, you assert that atheists or scientists must provide a theory for the origin of life. You have not provided any reason for this assertion, yet it seems fairly central to your argument. Why must science or atheists provide proof of how life originated?

        You have recently introduced a third assertion, that there should be some sort of time limit or deadline set for science. Again, you provide no basis for this assertion. Please, by all means, educate us.

        So far our discussion hasn’t moved beyond the first myth in the article, and you’ve provided at least three myths as the foundation of your reasoning. This is inauspicious to say the least.

        Regards,
        A.F.

      • Scotty

        “A highly accurate metaphor would be a set of magnetic letters on a refrigerator door… there is absolutely no reason at all why they should be lined up in any particular order. That is why if you walk into the kitchen and the letters are arranged in a way that they spell, “Hi Sam,we are having your favorite dinner tonite, steak and mashed potatoes” you don’t need to investigate whether or not an intelligent agent arranged them that way or you little three year old was playing with the letters and they just happened to come up that way.”

        Logical fallacy, argument by analogy. It suffers the weaknesses of all arguments by analogy. In particular, it ignores dissimilarities between life and design.

        Also, the order of chemicals on DNA is not random.

        See my post below.

      • Adrienne
    • Adrienne

      “Make Way for Tomorrow” is one of my favorites too. Have you ever seen “A Matter of Life and Death” (released in the U.S. as “Stairway to Heaven”?

  • Indeed,

    Evolution may not be an undirected process, because it can only start once you have the fantastic machinery and information present in the first bacterium.

    Life from non-life by definition comes before any evolutionary process and therefore is totally undirected. If you are referring to simple self-replicating molecules (RNA or other) there is zero evidence that such molecular machinery every existed and no evidence that they could have emerged through some natural process outside of the laboratory. Even Richard Dawkins admits that no one knows how this could have happened.

    • Scotty

      “Evolution may not be an undirected process, because it can only start once you have the fantastic machinery and information present in the first bacterium.”

      Oh, you are playing that game where you repost comments you already made and were already refuted in the hopes that naive future readers won’t bother to read the entire thread. Let me repost my early comment.

      From http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB010_1.html:

      There is no reason to think that the life around today is comparable in complexity to the earliest life. All of the simplest life would almost certainly be extinct by now, outcompeted by more complex forms.

      Self-replicators can be incredibly simple, as simple as a strand of six DNA nucleotides (Sievers and von Kiedrowski 1994). This is simple enough to form via prebiotic chemistry. Self-replication sets the stage for evolution to begin, whether or not you call the molecules “life.”

      • moshe averick

        Scotty,

        Everything you are saying is complete speculation on the part of the scientists. There is no origin of life researcher alive who would agree with anything you are saying. Dr. George Whiteside made his statement that He finds the spontaneous emergence of life to be astonishingly improbable in 2007. If he is able to state that he has “no idea” how life could have started, you certainly do not know either. You are simply not aware of the true state of Origin of Life research. Scientists have nothing but speculative theories.
        This is simply the fact. Watch the presentations at the recent Origins conference at ASU by some of the world’s leading scientists including, Lee Hartwell, Sydney Altman, Richard Dawkins, Paul Davies, Christopher Mckay, J. Craig Venter, and Lawrence Krauss. No one has any idea how life started. If you are so inclined I go into this comprehensively in my book. Read any current book on Origin of Life by any author and you will see the same thing.

        • salvage

          Phase 1: Theist says life is so improbable that there MUST be a creator (ignores any questions as to why this MUST be so as improbable does not mean impossible you ever going to answer that one Mushe?).

          Phase 2: Theist says I just happen to preach every Friday and Saturday about a being who claims to have created the universe! Solved! Quick gang back in the Mystery Machine! Turns out it was old god Yahweh after all!

          Phase 3: Restate Phase 1 & 2 ignore all flaws, call people who point them out “confused” “Nazis” “mass murders” etc.

          Once again, Darwin makes no claim to the origins of life, no one does we do however have incontrovertible evidence that it all came from a single cell some 3.8 billion years ago (not bacteria that you keep yammering on about, cell, much simpler).

          Since your god claims to have made life all at once in its present form we can safely dismiss it as being a myth.

          And that is what you are arguing for RABBI all coyness aside (do you imagine you’d argue for something that isn’t your whole life and world? Do you think we would?)

          Do you really not see how transparent you are? What a lame parlour trick you’re pulling? At least a magician uses a full deck, you insist that your mark picks one of only two cards but before they do you’ve already dismiss the “undirected processes” card as one they cannot pick.

          So the sucker picks the “Intelligent Design” one and you jump up and down shouting “See? See? And that’s my god!!!” while kicking the rest of the cards under the carpet.

          And a cave drawing and Morse code give clear indications of “intelligent” design, bacteria, kneecaps and birth canals suggest nothing of the sort. What they clearly indicate is that life’s design is natural selection; DNA that survives long enough to reproduce gets to do it again developing life that can cling to Earth’s constantly changing and often violent environment. No god needed, just carbon, energy, and time.

        • Scotty

          “There is no origin of life researcher alive who would agree with anything you are saying”

          Really. You have talked to EVERY one? Please.

          “Dr. George Whiteside made his statement that He finds the spontaneous emergence of life to be astonishingly improbable in 2007.”

          Argument by authority. Also, you seemed to have left out the part where he says “on the basis of all the chemistry I know”.

          “No one has any idea how life started.”

          Argument by ignorance.

    • Normann Wheland

      Please, Rabbi, do try to expand your world beyond the crushing ignorance and delusions of your “faith.”

      “Life from non-life by definition comes before any evolutionary process and therefore is totally undirected …” is another of your tedious argument-from-ignorance fallacies. There is certainly not scientific consensus as to how “life” arose from non-life, but whatever those processes might have been, they most certainly were DIRECTED by the naturalistic laws of physics and chemistry, etc., just as the orbits of the planets have been DIRECTED by laws of gravitation long before Newton and Einstein began to tease those laws from their observations of nature — as when Laplace reportedly answered Napoleon I, upon being queried about God’s role in planetary motion, “[Sire,] je n’ai pas eu besoin de cette hypothèse.”

      Sorry to repeat myself Rabbi, but again, please do try to learn some science before you embarrass yourself with your ignorant prattle again.

  • Andrew,

    I am not talking at all about evolution, I am talking about Origin of Life, I am prepared to concede the truth of darwinian evolution for the sake of argument. Dariwinina evolution cannot explain Origin of life. You need a fully functioning bacterium before evolution can start. There is no evidence that anything existed before it, and no one has any idea how to bridge the gap between non-living chemicals and a bacterium.
    As the late distinguished biologist Dr. Lynn Margulis stated: “How did the first bacterium originate? No one knows.” “To go from bacterium to people is less of a step than to go from a mixture of amino acids to a bacterium.”

    The reason why you must explain Origin of Life is because there are only two choices. Undirected processes or Intelligent Design. when I said that I don’t have to prove intelligent design, I meant that it is obvious. When you see cave drawings, I don’t have to “prove” intelligent design. If the SETI scientists receive coherent messages in Morse code from outer space, they don’t need to “prove” an intelligent source, it is obvious. The staggering complexity of the bacterium itself proves intelligent design. You need to prove it could have happened otherwise.

    • Scotty

      “The reason why you must explain Origin of Life is because there are only two choices. Undirected processes or Intelligent Design. when I said that I don’t have to prove intelligent design, I meant that it is obvious…You need to prove it could have happened otherwise.”

      Wait, you are saying people have to prove undirected processes, but you don’t have to prove intelligent design because it is “obvious”?

    • Moshe Averick,
      That’s fair. Neither science nor atheism makes a claim to have the origin of life nailed down. There are a number of scientific hypotheses in this area, and great strides are being made in the research of abiogenesis, but as you state, correctly, no one knows for sure. Nobody on any side of the issue has a provable, working hypothesis.

      Unfortunately, your article says that “the atheist” wants “us” to believe that science has a working theory of abiogenesis. Your comments here make it clear that you don’t believe this to be the case. Your article even quotes Dr. Davies saying that there isn’t a theory of abiogenesis. I have to wonder, who is “the atheist” you mention who claims to have a scientific theory for the origin of life?

      Again you claim that one “must” explain the origin of life, but you still don’t give a compelling or logical reason for this assertion. The only factual, provable answer to the question, as you freely admit, is that nobody has a working, provable model. Nobody knows. I suppose that if you are the sort of person who wants a pleasant-sounding explanation for everything, whether it be true or not, you may value a myth over fact. Atheists and scientists would prefer the truth. In this case, the truth is that we’re working on it, but we don’t know yet.

      With regards to your comments about how intelligent design is obvious, I reiterate that “obvious” is not the currency of science. Also you may want to consider that your analogy is similar to the pocket watch on the heath. It makes an appeal to common sense, but in so doing deviates from the facts of the matter. In a word, flawed.

      Regards,
      A.F.

      • moshe averick

        Andrew,

        You are not aware of what is going on in Origin of Life research. There have been no great strides at all in 65 years since the STanley Miller experiments. That experiment is acknowledged today as a complete dead end. As Dr. Klaus Dose put it, the only progress that has been made is “a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on earth rather than to its solution”

        None of this information is hidden. It simply is not generally known by the public. As Dr. DAvies put it, “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.” Please see my comments to SAM. At the very least you should be willing to admit that Intelligent design is a reasonable possibility that must be considered. How much more time should we give the scientists?

  • Averick’s grossly flawed propositions have been rather nicely demolished by previous responses here. There seems to be only one point among these that is itself way off the mark – the claim that Craig Venter has created life. While this idea was bandied about by the popular press the reality is rather that his team interestingly modified an organism.

    However, there is one important section of the article which has not been properly addressed and that is the issue of consciousness. He accurately quotes, Fodor, Wald, Pinker, reflecting the sentiment exemplified by that of Nick Herbert “Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness”

    As it happens, they, and the many others who cling to this myth, are all quite wrong.

    “What is consciousness” when stripped of the metaphysical baggage generated by introspection, is seen to be entirely accounted for by science. In fact, it is an evolutionary necessity.

    Simply the navigational facility which enables an organism to interact optimally with its environment.

    The level of interaction of our species being inordinately high and the extent of consciousness (which we must remember, can be inactivated rather easily by a whiff of anaesthetic ) correspondingly sophisticated.

    This latter point, in particular, is expanded upon (very informally) within the context of the wider evolutionary model presented (very informally) in my latest book “The Goldilocks Effect: What Has Serendipity Ever Done For Us?” which is a free download in e-book formats from the “Unusual Perspectives” website
    Edit Reply

  • Averick’s flawed proposit

  • Tom

    Nothing is more annoying that reading about appeals to mystery.

    Scientists DON´T know how life began, Scientists CAN´T make something as complex as bacteria…etc.

    SO WHAT!!!!!

    How does any of that make the bible true?

    1000 years ago, the mystery of lightening was a mystery and then proof of the God Thor´s existance. WIth his mighty hammer he could stike and create lightening. This authors claims are exactly the same.

    So, when the day comes that we can engineer thing more complex than cells will he admit God doesn´t exist? No, because that would no more disprove God than his pathetic arguement proves God. It is an appeal to mystery and awe. It to take the mystery of life that we all see and claim then the answer is from some ancient book that has all the hallmarks of being written by ignorant religious zealouts 2 thousand years ago.

    The same can be said for the pathetic arguement for atheist mass murders.

    Why are secular nations more peaceful than religious ones? Why are atheists under represented in prisions?
    The auther speculates that an atheist ideaology is more dangerous yet the evidence starring him in the face, and readily available supports otherwise. The only thing more more annoying that silly speculation is laziness or lying, as one of these is the only explanation of the authors bigotry towards non believers.

    One this is for sure, evidence for any of the many thousands of different gods that have come, or gone or still being worshipped is ZERO. NONE.

    YOu can believe it. YOu can “feel” it. That doesn´t make it true.

    Ironically enough, the real big myth, IS RELIGON.

    • Tom,
      The late Dr. Harold Klein of NASA once wrote: “The simplest bacterium is do damn complicated from the viewpoint of a chemist that it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened.” Dr. Klein essentially is agreeing with what I am saying, he just doesnt take the final step, which is that it IS impossible for it to happen by itself, and if not actually impossible, then so improbable that the reasonable person does not even have to consider the possibility. Dr. George Whitesides of Harvard University, one of the worlds greatest living chemists stated the following: “The origin of life. This problem is one of the big ones in scie3nce. It begins to place life, and us , in the universe. Mose chemists believe as I do, that life emerged spontaneously from mixtures of molecules in the pre-biotic Earth. HOw? I have no idea…on the basis of all the chemistry I know, it seems to me astonishingly improbable.”

      It is worthwhile noting that Dr. Whiteside states that he “believes” that life came from non-life spontaneously. That is not a scientific nor a logical statement. However when he gives his rational opinion, he is honest: he says it is “astonishingly improbable.”
      What many of the non-believers don’t seem to realize is that since there are only two possibilities here, an undirected spontaneous emergence of life or a special act of creation, if it is “astonishingly improbable” that it resulted from an undirected process it becomes “astonishingly probable” that it was an act of special creation. This is simple logic.

      You are right though, the fact that there is a Creator of life does not mean the Bible is true. that is an entirely separate question.

      • Scotty

        “If it is “astonishingly improbable” that it resulted from an undirected process it becomes “astonishingly probable” that it was an act of special creation. This is simple logic.”

        That is not simple logic, it is incorrect logic. You can’t assign probabilities after the fact. In any case, even if it was improbable before the fact you are guilty of a type of Lottery Fallacy. If someone wins the lottery even though it was “”astonishingly improbable”, that doesn’t mean that it becomes “astonishing probable” an outside force intervened (like someone fixing the lottery).

        Please, oh, please, do us all a favor and take a course on logic.

      • Austin 3:16

        “so improbable that the reasonable person does not even have to consider the possibility. ”

        Sounds like God to me.

  • SimonPure

    You quote a reviewer of your book, Dr. Richard Weikart as saying, “Rabbi Averick turns the tables on atheists by exposing the irrational faith-based nature of their ‘reasoning.'”

    Is he saying that basing beliefs on faith is a bad idea?

    • Simon,

      AS I state clearly in my book (available on Amazon.com and Kindle) with a leap of faith you can land anywhere you want. There is nothing too absurd that a leap of faith cannot conquer, including the belief that life could come from non-life spontaneously.

      • Scotty

        You didn’t answer SimonPure’s question.

        • salvage

          And he never will.

  • Ignorance abounds.

    Today’s bacteria are incredibly sophisticated … they’ve had three and a half billion or more years to become so. The original life forms which arose from non life were probably not much more sophisticated than the simplest viruses today, so simple in fact that even if we were watching with full knowledge of what was happening, it would be difficult to impossible to draw a line or pick an “entity” and say “this is alive” and its antecedents not.

    It would have been “just” chemistry gradually becoming more complex and better able to accrete smaller natural organics into itself, and in some circumstances become split or broken into parts that would stay together that could then slowly accrete to something more and more like the original.

    After probably trillions of almost right combinations built and shattered, the detitritus broken down reabsorbed and broken again by the high energy chemistry of the environment, at last one such combination of a replicator molecule (probably similar to RNA) and a handful of loosely associated proteins could be broken, and the pieces (in its own rather specific exotic chemical environment) would separately accrete more of the smaller organics until both pieces were separate faithful copies of the original; and then it happened again and again … and it was then what we would recognize as life.

    Note that while this was unique for chemistry of that complexity, it was far from unique as chemistry in general. Crystals do exactly that kind of “rebuilding” of their original shape and structure if fractured in a saturated solution.

    For the rest of your article, it is quite charming that you refer to those notions as “myths”. For once you’ve got it right. Those notions are myths, but not atheists’ myths, just yours.

    — TWZ

    • Colonel Zen,

      You are mistaken. The earth is only 4.5 billion years old according the accepted science. The earliest bacteria have already been detected some 3.8 billion years ago. There was nowhere near that much time for bacteria to develop. Secondly you are supposing earlier life forms when there is zero evidence that there were earlier simpler life forms. That is the entire problem. That is why Dr. Paul Davies has said that “we haven’t a clue” how life started. If you accept as an article of faith that there was a naturalistic undirected origin of life, then there MUST have been something simpler. Everyone agrees that the notion of a fully functioning DNA based bacterium to pop out of the prebiotic slime is absurd. Colonel, your extremely difficult task is to prove that there was anything that preceded the bacterium. So far no evidence exists that there was.

      • Do learn to read Rabbi.

        I said that *today’s* bacteria are incredibly sophisticated because they had 3.5+B years to become so. I also stated that the original life forms which may have had some resemblance to bacteria, were certainly far less sophisticated.

        It is hardly an article of faith to suggest that there was something before the earliest life when your reply admits that the planet is many hundreds of millions of years older than the earliest known life forms. Obviously there was something there prior to the first life.

        The question is whether the earliest life forms arose as a result of undirected natural processes on non-living chemistry or by way of intelligent intervention. As I mentioned, crystals exhibit the kinds of reproductive nature that we so callously and ignorantly associate with only life. They simply don’t carry the kinds of internal complexity and dynamicism that life exhibits. But in nearly a billion years over the range of environments that a whole planet offers, and the energies available on the surface of a still cooling unsettled planet it doesn’t surprise me at all that more complex chemical arrangements that were capable of reproducing arose. It probably happened millions, perhaps billions of times in different places across that billion years … but only once was enough. And no matter how often, in the end it was successful and adaptive reproducer molecule collections – our ancestors – that left heirs who eventually consumed all others.

        As chemistry, this is not a story that requires a deep leap of faith. It’s downright tedious. It is vexing that we haven’t yet created a reproducer set of molecules in circumstances like what we think early earth was like, but we aren’t certain of those conditions. And we certainly haven’t had hundreds of millions of years to wait for the right combination that really only had to happen once in all that time to get the ball rolling.

        But for argument’s sake let’s consider your point of view. Someone steps forward and abracadabra’s over an organic but non living broth and creates some of the simplest known prokaryotes. Why exactly would we call this stage magician “god”? Given the simplicity of that earliest life, and that it took him more than a half billion years, it’s not that impressive a trick given that many of us think it could happen just as well without the magician.

        Which brings us back to the real motivating question of atheism. Where is he? Your kind prattle about god, but there is no evidence of an intelligent agent in nature. If there is a god, he is awfully bashful. If he wants me to know him, if politicians and marketers can find my phone number he should be able to, if he existed.

        Your god is all around in the complexity of life “arguments” are nonsense. Information is not created from nothing … but it is easily created from energy – the sun for most of life on earth – and an active filter as in the natural selection mechanisms of evolution. As a computer programmer it is trivial for me to use a few random seeds to create patterns that contain far more information than the program that creates them. There is a whole discipline within my art – genetic programming – dedicated to using evolutionary techniques to find answers – information – to problems that the programmer himself does not know how to solve. It often works.

        — TWZ

  • kivahut

    To borrow your style:
    #0. The billboard is in fact attacking other religions i.e. Neptune, Santa and Satan.
    #1.J Craig Venter has created a synthetic life form last year
    #2. Science has in fact discovered that if they shut your cerebral cortex off (anethesia) you don’t have thoughts much less “send them through the air”. Let me simplify, no brain, no thoughts.
    #3. See #2 (which could be a vernacular way of describing your thinking).
    #4. Stalin, Pol-Pot and Mao didn’t specifically kill people in the name of atheism. They killed people who threatened their political ideology. Some of those people were religious.
    Myths: Something that doesn’t exist doesn’t produce evidence for its non-existence therefore the burden of proof is on the promoter of the theory (diety).

    • Kivahut,

      #1 – I concede that theoretically you could be right, but it seems clear the point was to compare Christianity with pagan mythology.

      #2 – Irrelevant. That fact that J. Craig Venter was able to create life (in fact he didnt, but it doesnt really matter for this point) only shows that for life to exist you need the greatest scientific minds with all their knowledge and ingenuity at their disposal, having reaped the benefits of the acquired scientific knowledge of thousands upon thousands of other researchers, with millions of dollars at your disposal, with the most advanced cutting edge scientific equipment at your disposal, using the most rigorous and meticulous protocols. In other words, Intelligent Design.

      #3 I have a better example. Shoot someone through the brain and they die, no more thoughts. You have begged the question. Everyone (including me) agrees that the brain is involved in thinking. The point is that the physical brain cannot possibly explain the entire phenomena. There is a spiritual factor also. Please see my book for a more detailed discussion.

      #4 Nobody actually does ANYTHING in the name of atheism. Because it doesn’t stand for anything at all.
      However, once I am free from any type of ultimate accountability for my actions, I am free to form my values as I see fit without any boundaries whatsoever.
      This doesn’t mean that every atheist will act like a Josef Stalin, but it seems clear that atheism unleashed the full extent of his and others brutality.
      Again, my point was not that belief in God guarantees sainthood. My point was exactly what I said in the article. Please read it carefully.

  • josef

    This is a fascinating discussion!

    Whenever someone comes at me (a believer) with the proof thing, I agree with them that I cannot prove there is any more than they can proove there isn’t. So why not be an optimist?

    It’s the same argument I put forth to my fellow Jews when arguing the concept of an afterlife. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t, so why not be an optimist?

    As for the militant atheists, I’m a born, bred and raised Southerner (and proud of it, by the way) and in my experience many, if not most, atheists are of the same fire and brimstone, tent revival mentality and presentation as so many of those they rail against.

    These billboards exist for little more than ticking off somebody and are just plain bad manners.

    My two shekels worth.

    • Josef,

      I think that your comments are worth more than 2 shekels.

      Thanks, Take care

      • josef

        Thank you for the thank you and upping the two shekels!

        Seriously, though, whenever I come across such a discussion as this, I can hear Ole Rambam rolling in his uneasy rest. As we say down here, oy, gevalt, y’all, you’re getting too carried away with your cheap self!

        When my grandfather, may his memory be blessed, who in another time and place would have continued the centuries-long line of rabbis in his DNA, sat me down as a wee lad on the banks of the Loosaskuna “by the waters of our new Babylon,” his first lesson was: “the two great gifts of the Mesopotamian Cradle of Civilization are monotheism and the rule of written law, and the story of mankind is the mass migration of peoples.”

        Next came the lessons of Maimonides, boiled down for my little mind into, “there is that which we know, science, and that is the province of earthly pursuit. There is that which we do not know, awe, that is the province of theological and spiritual pursuit. Our job as homo sapiens is to explore each in our imperative to find order and meaning to and for our existence, and to try to bring them into harmony. We never will. But that is not the point, it is what we discover along the way that will make the world a better place for our having passed through.”

        Then he began with, “in our tradition, where did we come from?” After much stumbling, and much prodding “go further, what do we say took place?” Finally I began, “…and G-d said…” He beamed there and stopped me. “Exactly, and G-d said. The universe was spoken into existence.” He paused to let that sink in. “Okay, Son, what makes us as homo sapiens different from all other life forms that we know of?” “We speak…” “Exactly. It is that power that unites us with the Et-rnal.”

        And so it went. All my lessons were taught with an ultimate objective of the language through and by which they were expressed. I had to learn the language of science, “through which we express what we know,” and the language of poetry, “through which we express what we feel.” For him, science without poetry was sterile, and poetry without science was meaningless.

        When we came to the story of creation, we read the text “of our tradition,” the poetry of where we came from. Next we reviewed evolution and the science of where we came from. “In both versions, Son, we came from the mud. In this case, poetry was millenia ahead of science in offering an explanation.”

        Those were the lessons I tried to pass on to my own children. Perhaps one of my greatest moments of humble pride came when Little Princess’ science teacher called me up to tell me what she had said in class. The topic had been the “big bang” theory and the class discussion had broken down into the “conflict” between science and theology. She had presented the lack of conflict by using Granddaddy’s lesson on “according to our tradition.” When it came to “and G-d said,” she had said, “well, don’t you think that when G-d spoke, it was probably a pretty big bang?”

        A lot of people not from the South automatically express sympathy on “how hard it must have been growing up Jewish down there.” I can only shake my head in wonder at the ignorance. While we may have been the only Jews for miles around in an area where the overwhelming majority of the locals were the much maligned “fundamentalists,” my Grandfather was held in high esteem by his neighbors, and consulted on matters of the earthly and spiritual alike. His lesson there was that if you want others to respect your beliefs, you must respect theirs. To do that you must approach theirs with the same open mind you want them to approach yours. “Any search for truth and meaning is a search for G-d and no honest search is more ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ than any other. Any time anyone, scientist, poet or preacher tells you that they’re right and you’re wrong, they are being dishonest.”

        Once someone asked him whom he considered the wisest person he had ever met. He unhesitatingly responded, “the Preacher Smits.” He was met with a sarcastic laugh, and a second question of, “seriously, Mr. Gene, who?” The Preacher Smits was not held in particularly high esteem by the locals, himself something of a non conformist poor, not that well schooled, and attached to a particularly emotional branch of the Christian faith. “I am serious. I asked him one time, ‘Preacher, what do you think your purpose in being here is?’ And he said, ‘to put one foot here, one foot there, and to do my part to hold the world together.’ I had searched a lifetime looking for the answer, and that was and is the wisest I have yet heard.”

        So many people posting here are out to complicate matters and wow one and all with their erudite and polysyllabic urbane pseudo-sophistication. They need to follow the Preacher Smits and put their feet back on earth and do their part to hold it together so that when they leave, whether or not to some afterlife, having left it a better place for having been here. Ole Moshe might rest easier.

        • jp

          What a lovely post.

          Moshe, are you listening?

          “Any time anyone, scientist, poet or preacher tells you that they’re right and you’re wrong, they are being dishonest.”

          Wise words. Perhaps now when people say, about the origins of life or anything else, “we don’t know and it’s OK to admit we don’t know”, you might pause for just a second before telling us that you’re right, and we’re wrong.

          But I suspect that without “I’m right and you’re wrong” to fall back on, Moshe might run out of ideas for his articles.

  • Reverend Animal

    Josef Stalin was a Southern Baptist, Mao-Tse-Tung was a Methodist, and Pol-Pot was a Lutherine.

  • Ray Dobson

    “Science doesn’t have all the answers, therefor goddidit… Stalin was an atheist, therefore all atheists are evil, blah blah blah…” Yawn.

  • Randy

    Obviously this article was written by someone with a considerable amount of education, and I commend the writer for his attempt to “educate” the atheists as to why we are incorrect.
    However, the authors assertions and flawed explanations are a symptom of someone who is coping with an assault on his belief system.
    Mr. Averick makes the mistake of making the statement that “The only known source of functionally complex machinery and specified information is some sort of intelligent agent.” This from a man who believes that his “God” has always existed…wouldn’t it be easier to believe that “Life” has always existed rather than a petulant child-like creator who “created” himself/herself???
    I can understand the reason someone would wish to believe in a Creator, but wishing something were true doesn’t make it so.
    I would suggest to Mr Averick that he re-read Occam’s Razor and then ask himself the question:
    Which is the MOST likely idea…that a superhuman diety created us… or that we evolved from simple bacteria and evolved into homo-sapiens? Although both questions strain credulity, one in particular REALLY stretches reality to make its case.
    Let’s not forget, that “God” was created by ancient people in a time when almost nothing was known about ANYTHING. Just a simple mechanism to explain how the world works…yet still a flawed idea.

    • RAndy,

      Why is it a mistake to state that “the only known source of functional machinery and specified information is some sort of intelligent agent?” Can you give me another source?

      • Randy

        You look at life and the organisms surrounding us and believe they are of divine origin. If a creator “designed” us, then you must admit that he did a horrible injustice to us all. The way the eye works( in humans) is a terrible design, however…the squid has an almost perfectly designed eye. So do we infer that because of this, God loves squid more than us??
        As an atheist, I value life because I realize that this is the only world there is. Rabbi, ask yourself why would God continue to hide in the shadows when by merely unmasking himself/herself this charade would end and everyone would know the “truth”?
        I struggled for years when I realized that God was Santa Claus for adults, and I hated knowing that my life was not eternal….
        But with time I grew to realize that it isn’t the length of time one has, but what he does with it… Everything has a creator, and “God’s” creator is called man.

  • Yeah, Right

    Fact #1. You have no creditable evidence for the existence of the supernatural.

    Fact #2. If there were quantifiable evidence you would have supplied it instead of this tripe.

    Fact #3. No need for additional facts. Until you provide conclusive evidence of the supernatural realm, your just another snake oil salesmen.

  • Joe Cogan

    Whack those strawmen a little harder, Rabbi Averick, they’re still breathing.

    • Roy Bailey

      In this politically charged climate we live in today, it seems to me that discussing atheism with an Atheist is similar to discussing liberalism with a Liberal. They always attack the messenger not the substance of the message.

      • moshe averick

        Roy,
        Ain’t that the truth!

        • Scotty

          You might want to respond to those comments that contain critiques of the substance of your message before blithe replies to the few people supporting your message. Roy isn’t even correct in the first place. First, Roy, there are many messages here that concern substance. Second, the OP pointing out a logical fallacy IS attacking the substance of the message.

        • salvage

          And here we have Mushe at his most delusional, this thread contains nothing but hits on the “substance” of his post and yet here he is claiming that there’s nothing of the sort.

          It’s almost like a form of autism, his brain just can’t process certain types of information.

      • Kevin Bjornson

        I don’t attack the messenger. His arguments are an attempt at a form of humanism (which is distinguished from atheism, which denies the existence of xyz). While humanism affirms positive human values and communication, atheism is nihilistic. Some religions are nihilistic with regard to positive human values. We should reject both atheistic and religious nihilism, and affirm positive humanism.

        We should be humble and not assume humans know everything.
        Humanity is beginning to understand natural laws. That’s not to say everything can be reduced to physics, or chemistry, which are merely branches.

        In any event, even if the supernatural existed, we could not talk about it, since human communication uses natural language.

      • Tom

        It is reasonable to attack the messenger when the message is stupid. I see all the comments attacking the message, illustrating how the messenger´s reasoning is flawed.

        You are now attacking the messengers!! How ironic.

  • You missed the biggest myth about atheism and that would be the myth that it means anything other than a disbelief in god(s).

    Atheism is not a belief or belief system. It has no creeds, holy books, customs, or dogma. The only thing the label “atheist” tells you about a person is that they don’t believe in any of the proposed gods due to lack of evidence. Trying to tie any other beliefs to the label is like saying that everybody who disbelieves in leprechauns all share the same beliefs. It’s futile and useless to try.

    We are all atheists, even you. If you don’t believe in Neptune, you are a Neptune atheist. Every god you don’t believe in you are atheistic towards that god. Atheists just believe in one fewer gods than most people. We are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and productive members of society. We are as moral as any believer and more so than some. We don’t eat babies, worship Satan (we don’t believe in him either), or want to pull society apart. We live good lives (at least as good as the average person) and contribute to charities and our communities. Along with all that we also just don’t happen to believe in any gods.

    In the U.S. Christianity surrounds us constantly. We are told how to live our lives on billboards, radio stations, television channels, and bumper stickers. When is the last time you heard of a public outcry from atheists over those messages? You don’t because we also respect free speech and support your right to advertise your beliefs even if we don’t agree with them. However, if one atheist tries to put up a billboard or bus ad many “Christians” want to deny their fellow citizens the right to free speech that they enjoy. Even simple positive messages to our fellow nonbelievers such as “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone!” are seen as attacks on Christianity.

    That is why organization such as American Atheists put up billboards such as the one above. To assert our rights to put our message out there as Christians do every day in every corner of the U.S.. You have the right to say and believe whatever you want but you DON’T have the right to not be offended when others disagree with you or offer competing messages.

    Around 20% of people in the world are non-religious. A 2009 survey put the number of non-believers in the U.S. at around 15%, or roughly 45 million of your fellow citizens and all seem to agree that the numbers are growing exponentially. An American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College reports that the fastest growing “faith group” is the one claiming “no religion. Most experts agree that the number of secular Americans has probably doubled in the past three decades – growing at a much higher rate among the young.

    So atheists are all around you and our numbers are growing faster than those of believers. We hear and see the messages of religion daily so if our religious views, or lack thereof, offend you…get over it.

  • Brian Westley

    Another pig-ignorant attack on atheists by Moshe Averick. Yawn.

  • Scotty

    “The simplest living organism that has ever been known to exist – some form of bacteria – contains molecular machinery that is more sophisticated and more functionally complex than anything human technology can produce. It has a self-replicating mechanism that is beyond all known human engineering capabilities, based on the storage, retrieval, and translation of encyclopedic amounts of pure, digitally encoded information. In fact, it is highly misleading, if not downright false to describe a bacterium as “simple” at all”

    From http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB010_1.html:

    There is no reason to think that the life around today is comparable in complexity to the earliest life. All of the simplest life would almost certainly be extinct by now, outcompeted by more complex forms.

    Self-replicators can be incredibly simple, as simple as a strand of six DNA nucleotides (Sievers and von Kiedrowski 1994). This is simple enough to form via prebiotic chemistry. Self-replication sets the stage for evolution to begin, whether or not you call the molecules “life.”

    • moshe averick

      Scotty,
      You seem to have missed the point that there is no evidence at all that any simpler form of life ever existed.

      • Moshe –

        You have clearly missed the point that the entirety of your “missing link” argument is immaterial to the point you are trying, poorly, to make.

      • Scotty

        Under your logic then, since there is no evidence of who killed Jimmy Hoffa, then God did it.

        • moshe averick

          Scotty,

          YOur analogy is flawed. The equivalent would be as follows: Jimmy Hoffa, together with two other men go into a bank vault with only one door, a shot rings out and Hoffa is dead on the floor with a gunshot wound. The gun is lying on the floor next to him. Assuming that we can eliminate the possibility of suicide there are only two possibilities: Either man A or man B did it. Imagine you are looking at the very first living organism that ever existed in the universe. There are only two possibilities: Either it was created by a non-physical creator (there are no other living organisms in the universe) or it emerged from non-life through an as yet unknown undirected process. Our task would then be to decide which of the two possibilities is more likely. A – Is it more likely that it was the result of intelligent agency or B- is it more likely that it was the result of an undirected process?

          • Scotty

            You really love using false dilemmas as a logical fallacy don’t you? They could have both done it (fighting over the gun), a machine could have shot him and dropped a gun from the ceiling, etc.

            In any case, your Myth 1 doesn’t talk about probabilities at all. But if you want to, truth doesn’t work on probabilities. Either God did it (probability 1) or he didn’t (probability 0) – same with other hypotheses. Without evidence a rational person doesn’t believe (like atheists with gods). I think you are employing wishful thinking, not logic. I really don’t know how life was created. If you talk track records though, how many mysteries have been later explained by natural processes (hint: all of them), and how many by supernatural causes (hint: none)?

          • vgerdj

            Someone outside the vault could have done it, and slid the gun into the vault. You did not say the door was shut. ‘Thinking outside the box’ is not just metaphoric in this case.

          • vgerdj

            his response: very clever, but the point was to set up a case where there were only two reasonable possibilities

            Mine:
            but there are not 2 ‘reasonable’ possibilities. If you get to assume that there is some magical skydaddy that there is no evidence for, then it IS reasonable to assume that there was someone outside the door, as you did not give enough information. That is the whole point of strawman, you set up the test to only 2 possibilities and knock down the one you don’t agree with. That is not reasonable. That is apologetic.

          • vgerdj

            moshe responds:
            If SETI scientists received Morse Code transmissions from a distant galaxy, they would not attribute it to a magic skydaddy (perhaps they are looking for a magic skydaddy), but they would rightly attribute it to some unknow form of intelligence. That’s what we are talking about.

            Again, there are two options, an intelligent agent or an undirected naturalistic process, What is your third option?

            my response:
            Well, since Morse code has only been around on Earth for less than 200 years, a Morse code signal from a distant galaxy, that we assume took millions of years to get here, would redefine our understanding of the universe. And that unknown form of intelligence is in this plane of existence, so, if you get to assert that your magic friend is one of the plausible explanations, then, every other magic, supernatural, imaginary, fictitious, and scientific hypnosis is a viable alternative. So, there is not only 2 ‘reasonable’ explanations. What about an unintelligent agent, or a physical creator that we have no known basis to understand, or a directed naturalistic process. We have no evidence that these other explanations exist, but if we keep our investigation to things we can generate evidence for, science progresses.

          • vgerdj

            moshe responds:
            You seem to be avoiding a simple answer to a simple question. It’s irrelevant whether or not it would redefine our understanding of the universe. There still are only two explanations, an unknown intelligent agent or an undirected naturalistic process.

            You suggested the possibility of a “directed” naturalistic process. Directed by who? Directed means that an intelligent agent is involved. Undirected means, no intelligent agent involved. Please stop the adolescent use of “magical friends” and “skydaddies”. It makes you sound very childish.

            If SETI scientists received Morse code transmissions from another galaxy they would be ecstatic. They would cite it as the first undeniable proof of intelligent life outside of our solar system. In fact, all they would know is that is the result of intelligent agency. They would have no way of knowing what plane of existence it was from. They would know that it is intelligent and they would know that it can transmit morse code.

            The existence of a bacterium demonstrates the intervention of an intelligent agent. As far as the exact nature of that intelligent agent, that is a different question and ultimately will fall in the category of philosophy/metaphysics, not science at all. Even as zealous an atheist as Richard Dawkins concedes clearly in THe God Delusion that ultimately the question of the origin of life is a philosophical question, not scientific at all.

            my response:
            “The existence of a bacterium demonstrates the intervention of an intelligent agent.” No it doesn’t. You lie. Nowhere in the scientific literature is there any demonstrable proof that an intelligent agent caused bacterium.

            If you get to claim that your beliefs in the supernatural are an explanation for the universe than I can call them whatever I want. You want to insert YOUR theism into a scientific investigation. You just didn’t like that my comical retort that ALL supernatural explanation should get equal time. So you failed to PROVE that your irrational beliefs are better than any other, then you call ME adolescent and very childish. That makes you vile and evil and we can only hope that there is a hell, so you can rot there forever. See, insults don’t add anything to the discussion. If the best you can come up with is “my god did it’, you fail.

      • Tom

        You cannot claim to know that simplier life forms never existed. You were not there, and you simply do not know.

        Anyone with any education in biology can see your claim as ludicous. Although science has many ideas and theories, you can´t just make a claim that you simply cannot hold up.

        You either need to be honest or learn more on the subject to which you pretend to be an expert. It´s not fair to your readers.

        • tom,
          You are mistaken. Anyone with an education in biology, like Richard Dawkins, agrees with me. He has stated explicitly that he has no idea how life started and neither does anyone else.

          I said that there is no evidence that anything simpler than a bacterium ever existed. On this there is no disagreement and any other scientist. The assumption that there was is based on an apriori “belief” in scientific naturalism. This is essentially an article of faith. I will make a simple prediction and testable and falsifiable hypothesis: The notion that it is possible for non-living chemicals to transform into a living bacterium through an undirected process is so absurd that it can be rejected out of hand. No one will ever find a plausible, empirically demonstrable process which would account for such a thing happening. It is as absurd as looking for an undirected naturalistic cause for cave drawings in France.

          I have put myself out on a limb, if you find the process I go down in flames. The ball is now in your court. You certainly have your work cut out for you.

      • Adrienne
  • I can put the author’s entire argument into one succinct sentence:

    “I (we) don’t know how or why x or y or z happened or happens or exists, therefore god.” Such is a logical fallacy that most middle school students could spot it.

    In essence, Atheism is nothing more than the statement that there is no verifiable evidence for, thus no reason to believe in, gods. I would remind the author that it is those who make existential claims, i.e. “There is a (are) god(s)” who must provide the proof of their claims. The same requirement is totally absent in the case of doubters.

    As Christopher Hitchens so succinctly put it, “That which can be asserted with no evidence, may also be dismissed with no evidence.”

    • James

      As usual, Hitch says it better than anyone.

  • Gary H.

    Before we can explain the physicality of things, we need to define what is “Life”. We do know that many things are alive, so is carbon, but what makes it alive? No one knows, that is a undeniable fact. Until we can figure that out and explain it, then and only then can we go on to figure out how life evolved into what it is today. What we call organic contains life. We can all agree on that. We can not however create it. We know how to make more of it, we also know how to destroy it and we are very good at that. That’s why we need to discover what Life is first.

  • Jeffery Lebowski

    Myths 3 and 4 were the funniest. Myth 4 brings me back to grade 4 when I thought all wars were fought over land, or because people didn’t like each other and I didn’t know why. Myth 3 just makes me chuckle because I did watch an hour long lecture online discussing human psychology, why faith exists and why all (or most, not including sociopaths/psychopaths) humans have a conscience. YOU sir have shown a “flagrant display of intellectual laziness and pompousness” by simply announcing that a conscience is some supernatural power granted to humans when all mammals have some form of morality.

  • Scotty

    “Well of course lightning is created by Zeus throwing lightning bolts created by Hephaestus. No one else has even the slightest idea of other reasons.”

    “Well of course people are stymied in their attempts to physically explain a common and basic event such as why the sun crosses the sky every day. The only rational reason left is that Apollo draws it across the sky in his chariot.”

    “Well of course God’s son Ilat causes rain when he drops the bucket he fetches for his father. It’s the best explanation for the origin of rain since there is zero evidence of naturalist origins.”

  • Theophile

    Hi Moshe,
    These are the kind of arguments that back the Atheist into the Agnostic corner. I have noticed that Atheists in general are not interested in distinctions between scripture based “Christianity” and the doctrines of Rome (as so eloquently put forth in Foxes book of Martyrs), but would paint those who would willingly die in obedience to God rather than bend their knee to the powers of this world, with those who by force would establish theocracies.
    On creation:
    # Atheist: “The Bible says everything was created in 6 literal days, which is contrary to archaeological facts.”
    # Average Christian: “My Church/Pastor?Leader says the Bible says so, so it’s true, regardless of archaeology.”
    # Actual Bible reader: “According to the Bible the mechanism(sun, moon, stars) for a literal day(as we know it), was not in existence until “day” 4, You would think people in “our day” would notice this detail on the 1st page of a book so quoted from.”

    • moshe averick

      Theophile,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I always enjoy hearing from thoughtful people who compose coherent statements, whether from believers or non-believers. Unfortunately, many of the non-believers find it easier to rant hysterically, rather than take the time to compose something thoughtful. Take care,
      Moshe

    • salvage

      Now here is some good old fashioned theistic delusion mixed with some general ignorance, let’s break it down:

      >These are the kind of arguments that back the Atheist into the Agnostic corner.

      Uh no, not even slightly.

      >I have noticed that Atheists in general are not interested in distinctions between scripture

      Ah, this is a good theist dodge, the “That’s not MY god you’re talking about! My god is blahdy blahdy blah.”

      Sorry but unless you have a Bible that is unlike every other one it’s all coming from the same nonsensical source.

      > Atheist: “The Bible says everything was created in 6 literal days, which is contrary to archaeological facts.”

      Archaeology has no comment on the formation of the cosmos, that’s an entirely different discipline. The geological, physical and mathematical facts on the other hand all agree, the universe is at least 14.5 billion years old, give or take a few million. It’s probably much older but we can only see that far back.

      > Actual Bible reader: “According to the Bible the mechanism(sun, moon, stars) for a literal day

      As James Wood so emphatically put it in “Diggstown” (if you haven’t seen it run to your Netflix cue and add it, you can thank me later) a day is a day is a day and your god claimed that it made the cosmos in six of them and we know, for an indisputable fact that it took much longer. So if your god is real it’s either an idiot or liar and in either case unworthy of worship.

  • salvage

    Moshe Frittata #1: Atheism is the knowledge that there are no such things as gods, it makes no other comment on any other subject.

    Fact: There are no such things as universe creating gods, mankind has been dreaming them up for at least 10,000 years and in that time not a sliver of evidence has ever been found to show them to be real. The description of these gods are always a mishmash of contradictions, ill-logic and general argle-bargle

    Fact: Theist often like to babble on about how complex life is therefore their god MUST be real ignoring that their god’s explanation of that complex creation (in Moshe’s case the Hebrew version of Genesis) is always wrong in both the broad and complex details.

    Furthermore that complexity is always part of a process yet gods are always said to use magic or some other instant effect to make their creations, no process required. This and other dichotomy are cheerfully ignored by theists.

    Moshe Frittata #2: Modern or any real science (old or young it’s still rock’n’roll) only explains what it can prove, it makes no attempt to debunk anything metaphysical because if science can’t measure it it isn’t interested.

    Fact: Theist love to stuff their gods into gaps, anything we can’t explain is magic! In the old days this would be stuff like the Sun, what is it? We don’t know! It must be a god! As science grows and theism shrinks the gaps become even more abstract, hence Moshe’s rather tortured ‘fact’.

    Moshe Frittata #3: Pretty much the same deal as #2.

    Fact: Theists love repetition, every religion is an echo of the ones that came before it, boiled down to the abstract there is little difference between the ancient theism and your modern versions. Even their prayers, ceremonies and superstitions are copies with cultural “genetic” drift creating the “differences” (See Roman Catholics for the most glaring example).   The connection between obsessive compulsive disorders and religion are, I believe, more than superficial.  

    Bonus fact: When science doesn’t know, it says so, when theists don’t know they insist it’s their god. When science is show to be wrong, it says so, when theists like Moshe here they just repost the same article with the same nonsense over and over again. He like many theists are immune if not allergic to reality.

    Moshe Frittata #4: Religion isn’t responsible for anything, it’s an idea, it’s those who can’t see just how faulty and insane the whole thing is that are responsible for wars, cruelty and atrocities. Religion is merely a handy excuse and a smart way to get stupid people to do stupid things.

    Fact: Theists love to point to anything vaguely connected with atheism as proof that atheism is intrinsically bad. They often site the various COMMUNUNIST revolutions and atrocities as proof because those revolutions always centralized power and guard it jealously. They recognize that religion is a competitor and commies hate competition so they eliminate it.

    The reality is that Europe was a slaughterhouse from the rise of Christianity until the rise of the Enlightenment. The entire continent was awash with theism at every level of from the lowest peasant to the highest kings and they massacre red each other to incalculable levels.
    Bonus Fact: Hitler banned “On the Origin of Species”, was raised a theist, was support by theists and used theism to do all his bad things. Theists, once again, ignore these facts.

    Reminder fact: There are no such things as gods is what atheism is and no war has ever been launched on that premise. There was brief atheist tyranny during the French Revolution but it lasted slightly longer than Tony Danza’s film career so it hardly counts in comparison.

    Another fact: You can’t disprove a negative, so no, Moshe, the burden is firmly on you to prove your insane belief that there is a universe creating god who demands endless praise, pork free diets and that you lop the foreskin off your penis.

    Gosh, it sounds pretty stupid when you put it that way doesn’t it? No, it sounds pretty stupid anyway you put it and that’s because religion is a very stupid thing.

    And now Moshe will attempt to “burn” me and when I try and steer him back to the subjects at hand he’ll just stop posting.

    Did I mention theists repeat themselves?

    • Peter Cranny

      I was going to reply, but salvage has said it all.

      There is no “atheist position” on anything other than a simple statement of non-belief in any gods.
      It is not a denial of God, a statement of hatred of religious people, or hatred of religion.
      It simply says “gods? I don’t believe.”

      • moshe averick

        Peter,

        It seems you haven’t read Dawkins, Stenger, Dennet, Harris, and especially not Hitchens.

        • Scotty

          Why would you need to when you can look at a dictionary? Websters for example defines atheism as “disbelief in the existence of God or any other deity”. American Heritage says “Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.”. Wikipedia says ” the rejection of belief in the existence of deities”. Even Dawkins says he cannot know for certain God does not exist (but very low probability) and he calls himself an atheist as well.

        • salvage

          Yeah, they define atheism the same way.

          I know reality is modular for you Mushe, you pick and choose the bits you like and ignore the rest but alas, the rest of us are burdened by the weight of reality, free thought, and critical thinking.

      • I am an atheist, and “salvage” is an excellent example of an intellectually lazy individual trying to prove his point by asserting a series of unsupported statements he claims to be “fact”, and then laughably demonstrating they are nothing more than his own myths.

        He believes science will tell us when it doesn’t know something. Where has poor salvage been during the whole “global warming” debacle, where various scientists has massaged, manipulated, and thrown out data to prove something demonstrably false? Unfortunately, science has become politicized, and is no more trustworthy than any other branch of human knowledge.

        Yesterday’s magic is today’s science. Perhaps the future will give us an understanding of some of the mysteries Rabbi Averick speaks of, and we either will – or will not – have reason to believe in a Supreme Being or Intelligent Design. Until then, the pathetic posturings of some of these atheists such as salvage posting here will certainly not settle the question.

        Keep writing, Rabbi. Since neither side is actually supported by any _real_ facts, your reasoning is as valid as that of the anti-religious zealots who call themselves atheists. Given that you are polite and reasonable, as opposed to some of the vile trash attacking your writing, the points go to you so far.

        • salvage

          >He believes science will tell us when it doesn’t know something. Where has poor salvage been during the whole “global warming” debacle, where various scientists has massaged, manipulated, and thrown out data to prove something demonstrably false?

          In a coma I guess because none of that happened, I assume you’re referring to the “climategate” nonsense? Where somehow selectively quoted emails between scientists mean that the Arctic and Antarctic ice isn’t melting and that the average temperature worldwide hasn’t gone up?

          I know, I know, it snowed last year! How can the planet be getting warmer?!!?

          Look there’s enough silly delusion here without you dragging in more, the reality is that climate change is real; the controversy in science is what are the cause and effects. That’s certainly debatable but not that it’s happening.

          I know, I know the scientists hired by the coal industry say otherwise and Fox News too but the numbers don’t lie and have no reason to unlike those other entities.

          >Unfortunately, science has become politicized, and is no more trustworthy than any other branch of human knowledge.

          Wow, that’s just stupid but if you really feel that way I assume you’ll never go to the doctor’s again for fear of their political agenda? You’ll buy no new technology because it’s probably a lie? NASA just sent a mini-van sized bit of malarkey to Mars, buncha con artists are probably doing the whole thing on a sound stage in Nevada just to get Obama re-elected!

          > Since neither side is actually supported by any _real_ facts,

          I’m pretty sure that science has a few “real” facts, you should be careful about sitting in the middle of the road; it’s where most things get run over.

          But you make an excellent point, atheism is such a small and simple thing that being one gives absolutely no indication of anything else concerning character such as intelligence; it’s just that obvious that gods aren’t real.

  • Marty Kay Zee

    Myth #1 presupposes a provincial form of earth-chauvinism. If our little laboratory here is too young, too simple or too small for the author’s imagination, let’s remind him that there’s a lot more out there. Amino acids have been observed in deep space, perhaps formed by super novae and may have seeded the early earth with their potential.

    Religious faith, not to be confused with despotic cults of personality, is an artifact, a byproduct of evolution exploited for power and profit by legions of sociopaths.

    It may have served a purpose in the development of civilization as a scaffold of sorts, also known as false-work, as the building of bridges and cathedrals requires such temporary support. Now that we have constituted, codified and may enforce rational laws, these jury-rigs are no longer needed.

    • moshe averick

      Marty,

      Whose “rational laws?”

      • Jeffery Lebowski

        Don’t kill, don’t steal, and most notably, don’t rape. I say it’s the most notable law as no faith book tells you not to rape people, in fact the Bible allows rape and slavery.

        • Marty Kay Zee

          Right on, Dude. This will not stand.

          • Marty Kay Zee,

            I agree with you that to argue about whether Streits or Manischewitz matzo is more kosher is ridiculous. Everyone knows that you can’t trust either of them.
            That’s why I make my own matzo. You can come to my next seder and you don’t have to worry! It’s too bad you only lasted 6 years, I hear that at Jacob Joseph things really start to get good only in 7th grade. Take care buddy.

        • moshe averick

          Jeffery,
          Being an orthodox rabbi and jewish educator for the past 30 years, I can state categorically that what you wrote is certainly not true of the JEWISH understanding of the Torah. The problem , and an understandable one at that, is that you have no Jewish context to understand what is going on in the Torah. To give a simple, but accurate for our purposes, metaphor, it would be as if I was totally unfamiliar with American culture and I heard someone say that they have a frog in their throat and I mistakenly thought they meant that they literally had a frog in their throat.

          • salvage

            Please tell me oh learned teacher, where does the Torah forbid slavery? My own recollection seems to be that taking slaves after slaughtering the men was perfectly kosher.

            It’s cute the way you nostrum dealers pick and choose which bits of the scriptures to read to your flock.

          • Marty Kay Zee

            Well, Rebbe Moishe, I spent only six years in yeshiva at Rabbi Jacob Joseph on Henry Street on the Lower East Side. What I most clearly remember about that education is one rabbi criticizing the other over the relative kashreth of Streits vs. Manishevitz matzos. I think it was the fourth grade when I sat up in class and almost said out loud, this is a bunch of b*ullsh*it. Zugst Rashi: What a smart boy was I.

          • Another good metaphor for this problem of context would be a rabbi explaining what’s wrong with atheism and science.

  • Normann Wheland

    The good rabbi has committed so many logical fallacies in his discourse above that I don’t even know where to begin!

    But let’s look at a couple of examples:

    Pol Pot, Mao, and Stalin (notice that Hitler was conveniently omitted from the rabbi’s list since he apparently knows that Hitler was a practicing Catholic his entire adult life) equates to the “correlation-does-not- imply-causation” logical fallacy. There is not one single shred of evidence that the brutal communist dictator’s of the 20th century committed their atrocities BECAUSE of their atheism rather than their absolute megalomaniacal drive to destroy all of their perceived opposition, religious, political, or otherwise.

    “[W]hen billions of human beings from every conceivable race, culture, geographical location and level of education claim an intuitive and experiential connection with its reality…” is a classic example of one of the most disreputable fallacies, namely “agumentum ad populum.” Perhaps the good rabbi needs to revisit his Logic 101 course materiel to help him expunge his logically fallacious arguments.

    • moshe averick

      Norman,

      Hitler was a practicing catholic his entire life? I am certain you also believe that George Bush personally ordered the attacks on 9/11 and that Elvis is still alive and living in the Yukon.

      • Normann Wheland

        Rabbi, your ignorance of Hitler’s religious views is appalling. Try this one on for size:

        “In a proclamation to the German Nation February 1, 1933 Hitler stated, “The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life.”[13] ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler's_religious_views )

      • Jeffery Lebowski

        Learn to read you nitwit, Hitler was a Catholic. It has nothing to do with his actions but the fact that people aren’t even willing to look things up before they tell people they’re wrong is absurd. There’s this place called wikipedia, it has round the clock moderators to ensure the accuracy of it’s articles, I think you should spend an afternoon on it.

        • Normann Wheland

          I always find it amusing that the theists who claim that Hitler was an atheist have never apparently bothered to read “Mein Kampf.”

          Perhaps a few excerpts will enlighten:

          “We thank God that the inner spirit of our German democracy will of itself prevent the chance careerist, who may be intellectually worthless and a moral twister, from coming by devious ways to a position in which he may govern his fellow-citizens.”

          […]

          “Of course, one doesn’t discuss such a question with the Jews, because they are the modern inventors of this cultural perfume. Their very existence is an incarnate denial of the beauty of God’s image in His creation.”

          […]

          “But if for reasons of indolence or cowardice this fight is not fought to a finish we may imagine what conditions will be like 500 years hence. Little of God’s image will be left in human nature, except to mock the Creator.”

          […]

          “And so, internally armed with faith in the goodness of God and the impenetrable stupidity of the electorate, the struggle for what is called ‘the reconstruction of the REICH’ can now begin.”

          FROM:

          http://greatwar.nl/books/meinkampf/meinkampf.pdf

          • salvage

            Boom! Here we are, Mushe shown to be as wrong as clown pants at a funeral and once again he is silent.

            Such a wise and honest man!

      • Joseph

        Hitler saw himself in the role of a Martin Luther-type reformer of Christianity into something he called “Positive Christianity.” He was hoping to merge Church and State into a “Volkish” version of Christianity with himself at its head.

        The anti-Semitism was based on religion (the “Christ killer” story), the Aryan “Volkism” was based on a “folk” religion, the “Positive Christianity” their constitution supported was based on religion, the overwhelming majority of their population and their troops were Christian (approx. 2/3 Protestant and 1/3 Catholic), Hitler was a self-professed Christian, he framed what he was doing in religious terms (to motivate other believers), the slogan that many of his troops had on their uniforms was religious (“Gott Mit Uns”), and they persecuted nonbelievers and people of a different religion (the Jews).

  • James

    How is this anything more than a rehashing of the “God of the Gaps” fallacy? A hole in scientific knowledge is in no way a proof for God. And even if it was, which god fills the gap? The emergence of life and the existence of consciousness are two huge and important questions in science. Scientists will freely admit that they don’t have the answers, and they’re quoted so in the piece. I think it’s reasonable, honest and humble to admit we don’t know. What’s pompous and arrogant is the insistence that religion can fill any of these gaps. It never has before. Religion has been wrong about the shape of the earth, its age, its relative position in the universe, and the development of life on its surface. Why would any honest skeptic assume that these gaps we face now in our scientific knowledge are the “ultimate” gaps, that will once and for all be filled by God. And again, I ask anyone who cares to tackle it… which god?

    • moshe averick

      James,
      You mistakenly assume that your God of the Gaps retort has any validity in the first place, and then you wonder out loud how this is not just a rehashing of the God of the Gaps fallacy?

      There are only two possible sources/options for the origin of the first bacterium: A. Intelligent intervention by an intelligent agent B. an undirected naturalistic process.

      There are no other reasonable options. Our task is to determine which of these two options is most reasonable and most likely to be true. In other words, what is the best explanation for the origin of the first bacterium.

      The ONLY known cause for functionally complex machinery and functionally complex specified information is an intelligent agent. The bacterium exhibits both at a staggeringly high level of complexity and sophistication. There is zero evidence that an undirected naturalistic process could account for both the functional complexity of the molecular machinery of the bacterium or the digitally encoded specified information contained in the DNA of a bacterium. The only reasonable answer is that an intelligent agent is responsible. Just as it is obvious that an intelligent agent was responsible for cave drawings that are tens of thousands of years old, just as it would be obvious that if we received coherent messages in Morse code from the Great Spiral Galaxy that is was the result of intelligence, so too it is clear that intelligent agency is the cause of the bacterium.

      If you want to assert differently, then please present some conclusive evidence.

      • James

        Thank you for your reply.

        You haven’t produced any conclusive evidence either. You’ve given us a false choice, with your two options. Either life came about by natural causes or it was directed and influenced by intelligence (God did it). The only thing we know conclusively is that we don’t know. I’m not saying that there was no creative intelligence involved in the development of the first bacteria, but I am saying that a creative intelligence has never been the answer to the natural phenomena we’ve observed before, so why this one?

        And let me suspend my disbelief for a moment and assume that there was a creative intelligence involved in the arrival of single-celled organisms on earth. This still proves nothing. A creative intelligence is not the God or gods that billions of people have worshiped and prayed to for centuries. This creative intelligence didn’t write the Old Testement or beget Jesus on a virgin. Are you saying that God put life on earth 3.8 billion years ago? What’s he been up to since then?

        The fallacy is still apparent. You’ve demonstrated that there is a gap in scientific knowledge, and you’re asserting that this gap demands a creative intelligence as the only reasonable way to fill it. Thankfully, I’m not the only commenter who won’t let you get away with it.

        • moshe averick

          James,

          Why is it a false choice? What other options are there? Just as the cave drawings themselves are the evidence of their intelligent designers, and just as a coherent message in morse code itself is the evidence for their intelligent designer, the intricate functionally complex machinery and the marvelous digitally operative (who knew about digital information 3.8 billion years ago?) genetic code are the evidence for their intelligent designer. I don’t need other evidence. The existence of my suit itself is the evidence for the existence of the tailor. The argument is exactly the same.

          You are, however, totally correct in your assertion that the existence of an ultimate creator of life does not necessarily mean he also spoke to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. That is a totally separate question, and I never make such a claim in the article, and not in my book either. In fact, if you read the end of the article carefully you’ll see I if not directly, certainly acknowledged your point indirectly.

          • James

            What I’m trying to point out is that your reasoning for a creative intelligence assumes that there simply can not be another explanation. Self-replicating molecules are not cave paintings. The question of how and why life developed and thrived is a huge one, no doubt. But the “irreducible complexity” approach does little to actually further inquiry into the subject.

            Out of curiosity, and I won’t be offended if you don’t answer, but do you believe modern life-forms on earth are largely the product of gradual evolution? If not, then why are you arguing about a theoretical point in the evolutionary timeline you don’t even believe in; or if so, why keep trying to insert intelligence and design into something that so far in our research and experience, doesn’t require it?

            I’d ask the same thing of someone who wanted to argue that the universe required a creator because “something” must have set off the Big Bang. Well, if you’re willing to admit that the rest of the cosmological model is more or less sound, what difference does it make if there was a first cause or not? Either way, the religious texts are still wrong, and it just looks like back-pedaling for a religious believer to jump in and claim ownership over a gap in an otherwise well-accepted scientific theory.

            But with all respect, thanks again for your replies. I haven’t had this much fun wasting a day at work in ages.

          • moshe averick

            James,

            I did not say there cannot be another explanation, I said that between the only two choices available we have to decide which one provides the best explanation. In fact self replicating molecules are exactly analogous to cave drawings. The difference is that they are much more sophisiticated than cave drawings. Even the primitive RNA molecules that sort of self replicate (they are nothing even close to what would be needed for some serious type of evolution to take place), only exist because the greatest scientific minds in the world with the most advanced laboratory equipment are able to manufacture them in the laboratory through meticulous and rigorous laboratory techniques and protocols. These processes resemble closely an automobile assembly line, and have no resemblance at all to nature. That is why one of the leading RNA World researchers, Dr. Gerald Joyce, has stated that the research into the RNA World does not tell us how life started, and in fact there is no “realistic” scenario that we know of where any of these things could have happened. Please see my book for a detailed discussion.

            Personally, I don’t believe Evolution accounts for the organized complexity of the living world, but for arguments sake I am prepared to concede the truth of Darwinian Evolution. It makes no difference as far as the discussion about the existence of God the Creator. Please see my article on this site entitled, “Dear Professor Dawkins,Science is a Servant of Truth, Not Atheism” for a discussion of that matter. Origin of Life and Darwinian Evolution are fundamentally and conceptually different scientific issues.

            I don’t really deal with the Cosmological argument that much. The argument from design as applied to Origin of Life combined with the fact that there obviously has to be a beginning is enough.

      • Scotty

        Again, from TalkOrigins:

        Response:

        The claim is an argument by analogy: Life is like man-made objects in containing machines, therefore it is like man-made objects in having an intelligent cause. It suffers the weaknesses of all arguments by analogy. In particular, it ignores dissimilarities between life and design, and the similarity has questionable relevance to intelligence.

        If the argument were valid, it could equally be argued that, in every case where a machine’s origin can be determined, the machine is made by humans, and therefore all life is man-made.

        Many machines occur in nature without the involvement of intelligence or, indeed, of any kind of life. The following list is far from exhaustive.

        Inclined planes, perhaps the simplest type of machine, are ubiquitous on earth. Functions include causing waves to break and making it easier for animals to climb heights.
        Ice wedges, another form of wedge, contribute significantly to erosion.
        Molecular bonds function as springs as they transmit and distribute forces through materials.
        Thunder clouds generate electrical forces.
        The earth as a whole is a dynamo, converting mechanical motion of convection into a magnetic field.
        Geysers produce eruptions which are predictable and fairly regular. If Paley’s watch can be considered a machine, surely Yellowstone’s Old Faithful is a machine, too, but I have never heard any suggestion that it is designed.

        Other machines are created by life but not by intelligence. Genetic algorithms design or help to design many kinds of machines, from antennae to jet engines (Marczyk 2004). One may attempt to argue that items designed by a genetic algorithm inherit the intelligent agency of the algorithm’s designer, but this misses the point that no human mental activity directs the immediate operation of the algorithm. In some cases, for example in some electronic circuits, the algorithmically-designed results show no resemblance to their human-designed versions, and indeed, cannot be explained via human design methods (Koza et al. 2003).

        Unintelligent animals also create a wide variety of machines, such as the orb weaver’s spider webs, the ant lion’s pit traps, and air-conditioned termite nests. Again, one may appeal that the designer of the designer might be intelligent, but that raises the possibility that maybe intelligence starts with the designer of the designer of the designer, or even further back.

        http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CI/CI131.html

  • Rich Wilson

    I stopped reading after the author conflated abiogenesis with evolution in ‘Fact 1’.

    • moshe averick

      Rich,

      You are mistaken. I did not conflate the two. Fact 1 only discusses Origin of Life. It has nothing at all to do with Darwinian Evolution. The only topic I touch on is the “mystery” of how you bridge the gap between inorganic chemicals and a fully functioning bacterium.
      Perhaps, you have in mind the current unsubstantiated speculative theories about intermediate stages, where an evolutionary process of a simple self replicating RNA molecules is proposed. If not, I would be interested to hear how you feel I conflated the two.

      • Marilyn Leiker

        My response to your column is simply this: You can’t prove a negative, so putting the burden of proof on atheists is disingenuous. Atheism is not a “faith.” Why use the term at all? That’s like saying you are an achristian or an amuslim.

        • moshe averick

          Marilyn
          I dont know which “negative” you are talking about. The only negative I know of in this discussion is the notion of proving that God doesnt exist. I would agree in that, you cant prove a negative. The atheist/materialist must account for the emergence of life on this planet. As I stated a number of times, when you are looking at the very first living organism, there are only two choices. Intelligent design or undirected naturalism. I don’t need to prove intelligent design. When you look at any functionally complex object or specified information we immediately ASSUME intelligent agency. If I find carved in a tree John Loves Mary, I don’t need to Prove that it was a product of intelligence, I assume that it is obvious. If you would wish to assert that it was the result of an undirected process, the burden of proof is on you.

          • salvage

            >The atheist/materialist must account for the emergence of life on this planet

            And if we offer any answer that isn’t your god it’s WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

            Science has made great accounting on the subject since the 50s but you’ll ignore all that and instead look to the mythology of Bronze Age desert savages.

          • “The atheist/materialist must account for the emergence of life on this planet.”

            Must they? I don’t recall seeing that in the rulebook. I also don’t recall seeing the rulebook.

            “I don’t need to prove intelligent design.”

            This is absolutely true, unless you want intelligent design to be viewed as science.

            “When you look at any functionally complex object or specified information we immediately ASSUME intelligent agency.”

            As we all know, assumption and writing up papers is about all there is to scientific method.

      • Joseph

        We don’t have an answer for everything (yet), but that isn’t evidence for your god (or an argument against atheism). Just because we don’t know everything doesn’t mean that goddidit is the answer by default (argument from ignorance). I can imagine someone like yourself, 2,000 years ago, implying that because we didn’t have a natural explanation for how the sun rises and sets every day there is some problem with people looking for natural causes for it. If everyone had your attitude, there would probably be a significant number of people still believing that it was carried across the sky in a golden chariot, or some other such nonsense. Science doesn’t claim to have all the final answers. This is one of the things that distinguishes it from religion. It is an honest inquiry which admits things it doesn’t know yet, and its answers are always provisional, open to new evidence. It is a bottom-up approach to the truth. Religion is a top-down approach, assuming it already has the final answers and any evidence in conflict with it has to be made to fit, or ignored outright. That is why political ideologies really have more in common with religion than Enlightenment principles of Reason – they are like aborted religions. The top-down approach to knowledge and truth–from religious to political ideologies–has never worked out well for human beings.

        And just because most people used to believe the Earth was flat, doesn’t mean that at one time it was (“argumentum ad populum” is a logical fallacy, as someone already pointed out).

        This article would be a good one for professors teaching logic 101 to use on a test (“How many logical fallacies can you find in this article?”).

        • moshe averick

          Joseph,

          You have completely misrepresented the argument from ignorance,which is:

          A did not cause Y, so it must be that B caused Y. That is argument from ignorance. Just because A is not the cause in no way at all implies B is the cause. The argument here is as follows:

          Cause A-X cannot account for Z
          Cause Y has been shown over and over again to cause effects like Z therefore I conclude that Z is the cause.

          I did not say that just because many people intuitively and experientially claim to know they have a soul proves it is true. What it means is that you certainly cannot cavalierly dismiss it with the wave of a hand. You must deal with that simple fact.

          There is no known undirected process that can account for functional complexity and specified information.

          Intelligent agency is always the cause of all functional complexity and specified information that we know of. Therefore it is eminently reasonable that intelligent agency is the cause of the phenomenally high level of functional complexity and sophisticated specified information in the bacterium.

          • salvage

            >There is no known undirected process that can account for functional complexity and specified information.

            So it must be a god and not just any old Thor, Dionysus or Hercules but YOUR god! All others are fake.

          • Yeah, Right

            “Intelligent agency is always the cause of all functional complexity and specified information that we know of.”

            Sounds like someone has been hitting the [Un]Intelligent design books a bit hard.

          • Moshe Averick,
            You claim that there is no undirected process which can account for functional complexity and specified information.

            This is true in a way, but your premise is false.

            First, evolution isn’t a random or undirected process. Selection and energy conservation pressures provide a certain amount of direction, and while there is a random element involved in the process, overall the result is slow, ordered progress, not chaos.

            Evolution can account for for the complexity and information content of organisms. Computer models have verified this many times, and no sound objection to this principle exists.

            Organisms do not possess specified complex information as Dembski defines the concept. Dembski’s proof that evolution could not produce complex specified information is based on a model which has nothing to do with evolution. The variables he employs with this flawed model are arbitrary, and I am given to understand that his math is incorrect on top of all that. Lastly, his work, flaws and all, is very similar that of Henry Morris about 50 years ago, and Borel before that, yet he never makes mention of any previous work on the subject.

            So, in a manner of speaking, the comment is correct, but with regards to your argument, not so much.

          • Indeed

            “There is no known undirected process that can account for functional complexity and specified information.”

            Abiogenesis and evolution are not undirected processes. “Can you replicate yourself faster than your environment can tear you apart?” is an extremely potent directional process.

            (But, hey, don’t let facts stop you from kicking your collection of straw men again.)

          • salvage

            Your silence to yeah, Andrew and, Indeed’s well-stated points and questions speaks volumes.

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