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Rabbi Adam Jacobs Strikes Again

11 Mar

This time, he’s got an interesting article proposing a “rational” argument for the existence of God. Of course, he fails to mention whether it’s his Jewish God, the Christian God, Muslim God, or maybe some amalgamation of the three, often referred to as the “Abrahamic” God.

However, as usual, Rabbi Jacobs’ writing is filled with arguments from ignorance, straw-men arguments, fallacious arguments from authority, and many other logical fallacies. Let’s begin, shall we?

One might suppose that in the six or so decades since the discovery of the DNA molecule by Watson and Crick during which researchers have been investigating the origin of life they might have come up with some pretty solid leads to explain it. The truth of the matter is that we see scientists coming up surprisingly empty-handed and that even within scientific circles, the few hypotheses they do have are shredded to ribbons by their colleagues within the scientific community.

Ugh, are you serious? Even if we don’t know exactly how life arose, where’s the evidence in support of a god? None, and that’s the problem. God is not the default answer to everything; theists make the claim that a god exists, and as such are required to demonstrate with evidence why that claim is true. Even if you could disprove evolution, abiogenesis and the Big Bang, where’s the evidence for a god? Not to mention the fact that science is NOT only about “testable theories”, but about where the evidence points to.

The more questions one asks about this deity, the more leaps of faith and fallacious appeals and arguments theists will make. Where did God come from? He always existed. So he can be infinite but the energy of which the universe is composed cannot be? No, because God is supernatural.

How convenient.

There just is no evidence for it. Not one of them has the foggiest notion about how to answer life’s most fundamental question: How did life arise on our planet?

The scientific community is overwhelmingly in support of the theory of evolution, and abiogenesis has been demonstrated in laboratory under conditions identical to those present on Earth billions of years ago.

What I find offensive is that the rabbi quotes Dr. J. Craig Venter as though he were speaking about abiogenesis and evolution. This is a common tactic of apologists like Rabbi Jacobs: take quotes out of context, from sources that would otherwise be reputable for the other side to quote, and use the fallacious appeal to authority to make their case.

To say that a god exists only because we don’t have any better explanation is intellectually dishonest. There is a mountain of evidence in support of evolution, and the theory that the universe expanded from a more compact state is a fact: the evidence points to the Big Bang theory, and no other better theory has arose that better explains the background radiation and other data in support of the Big Bang. If you want to make the claim that a god was responsible for those events, fine; but you have to be prepared to show evidence for that claim. You don’t get special pleading just because a majority of people believe in a god.

As I continue reading the article, I’m more and more disappointed. He quotes someone who likens the sudden appearance of RNA to Scrabble letters being thrown on the ground and spelling out a Shakespeare phrase:

“Suppose you took scrabble sets, or any word game sets, blocks with letters containing every language on Earth and you heap them together, and then you took a scoop and you scooped into that heap, and you flung it out on the lawn there and the letters fell into a line which contained the words, ‘to be or not to be that is the question,’ that is roughly the odds of an RNA molecule appearing on the Earth.” (Dr. Robert Shapiro, Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Chemistry at New York University)

This is a common line of flawed reasoning. What are the odds the letters will spell out “WPOQWOVNRJLIGTEOVNE”? Exactly the same percentage. There’s an equal chance that any particular arrangement of letters will form, yet every time some sequence has to form.

The Earth has had billions of years to form life. If you threw Scrabble letters on the floor every 5 minutes for those billions of years, you would eventually spell out a very intelligent sentence. Given enough time, any particular combination is possible. Given enough permutations, a pre-chosen combination is more and more likely to appear.

Let’s put this in to practice: what are the odds that the six dice I roll will each have a different number from 1 through 6? If my math is correct, there’s a 1 in 720 chance. If you only had one chance to get that combination, you would most likely fail. However, if you had 100 billion chances, there is pretty much a guarantee that you will eventually get a different number on each die. It’s a tricky thing when we talk about probability. You can claim that there’s a one in a billion chance that something will happen in a particular manner, but given a long enough span of time (i.e. billions of years), then the chances of that occurrence ever happening climb up to 100%.

There is no conclusive evidence that such molecules ever did, or could, spontaneously self-assemble on the prebiotic earth.

All the good rabbi is doing is making claims that there isn’t any evidence to support abiogenesis, when there clearly is; he is just ignorant to it. Ignorance is seldom an excuse, and it fails to act as one for the rabbi. He finally mentions that sometimes science makes claims that go against common sense. Yes, because our common sense is highly flawed and unreliable.

It was “common sense” thousands of years ago to think that thunder and lightning were simply the gods displaying their anger; today, common sense tells us that there must be a rational, scientific explanation for it (discharge of static electricity in the atmosphere). Funny, that.

Everyone agrees to the appearance of design. It is illogical to assume its non-design in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

First of all, not everyone agrees to the appearance of design. Nobody has ever given a sufficient set of criteria for what a designed object looks like. It’s always a vague version of “I’ll know it when I see it”. That’s not sufficient for any rational human’s standards, let alone those of scientists. There are theories as to how the eye evolved, for example, all of which are supported by evidence. To claim that it was all created by a higher power is to set one’s own argument above all others, to avoid the need for evidence or supporting data: all one needs to do is make a claim that just happens to put itself outside of normal space and time, outside of the naturalistic world in which we find ourselves, outside of reality itself. The argument for a god is constructed in such a way as to avoid the need to play by the same rules to which any other claim would be subjected.

It’s called “special pleading”. The rabbi would be doing himself a great service in looking it up.

 

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  1. Brian Westley

    March 11, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    “Let’s put this in to practice: what are the odds that the six dice I roll will each have a different number from 1 through 6? If my math is correct, there’s a 1 in 720 chance.”

    I don’t think 1/6! (1 out of 720) is correct.

    The first die can be anything; a certainty of 1 (or 6/6)
    The second die can be anything except the first number, or 5/6
    The third, any but the first two, 4/6
    etc 3/6, 2/6, and the last die has to be whatever number is left, so only 1/6.

    These are all independent, so multiply them together for the overall odds.

    This comes out as 6!/6^6, or about 1 out of 65.

     
  2. Richard Brum

    October 31, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    You’re correct. Combinations and permutations were never my strength as far as mathematics goes (I’m more of an algebra and trigonometry man myself), so it’s no surprise I got that wrong. Thank you for the correction!

     
  3. Janael.

    January 27, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    ( English is my second language, so appologies for potential mistakes. )

    I don’t know much about work by Rabbi Adam Jacobs.
    I simply came to this page “by accident ” as was searching some terms on line.

    However, I find difficult not to comment the argument about God and its evidence.

    I’ve been working as a medical artist ( surgery ) and illustrator for one of the most significant genetical research laboratories in UK.
    Before I entered the field of science and medical genetic research I studied theatre design ( design for stage ). I’ve designed a few college projects and worked shortly in theatre. During my studies of design for stage I became absolutely certain of God the creator and designer.
    My experience with medical science, molecular/ cell biology, human, animal and plant anatomy and genetics only confirmed my faith. Plus some ” accidents “, “chances”, meeting good people in the right time…= “miracles “.

    And the evidence ?

    Once I was given a task to produce a short theatre play just by myself. No team work. I wrote my own brief script, designed characters, costumes, sets, props, location, lighting, sound and casted actors and directed them. Part of the design process was to create a very accurate 3D model of the whole stage including little figures ( the characters ), realistic set and especially lighting. All to the right scale.The whole process was fascinating and frightinging as all was created to be shown and finally judged by the audience. I was ready to accept whatever judgement.

    But Big Bang ? You mean the original idea ?

    ” Well…quite good job…but lets break it down into atoms…to find out where it came from…what is this about…it just simply happened….it evolved. ”

    It just happened ? There is my name on the script and on the posters ! I am here ! You can’t see me ? No they can’t. All they can see is my work. So it means it was made by Big bang.

    It did evolve. Absolutely. At beginning, there were a few sentences, sketches of characters looking like tadpoles…drawn very quickly…you would hardly recognize the features…the tenth sketch was close to a human figure..the fifteenth was “it ” with all the details and colours. ……
    My other project was to design and produce a short animation movie. I chose a simple plot. 3D white rhino made of clay walking slowly, turning around and finaly dissolved in the ground, covered in blood. Short video for an anti – poaching campaign. It all started with an idea, then again sketches, storyboard, creating the hyper realistic animal from a piece of clay without any form. With a camera and stop motion digital program I would animate this little sculpture. I can’t even express how long did it take to create fluent movement. It was exhausting. Finally the creature jumped like a frog anyway…Extremely time consuming, 3 minutes of film took me almost 3 months to make. How it happend ?

    Big bang…

    When I studied genetics ( shortly ) and human anatomy, I understood. I got it. The genes communicate in teams. Express themselves. The cell is a microcosm. Nothing new. The human body itself is such a complicated and genial ( Still not perfect ..:-) design that without it our souls could never experience the material existence. To get the opportunity to enjoy nature, our “own” development, emotions, correcting of mistakes…= growth. Of course the design “evolved”. The mother doesn’t give birth to an old man – does she ? But evolution, discoveries of science only prove that the creation is so genial ( and still will develop and improve…no good artist is really happy with the result …there is never a final piece..) that could not ” just happen “.

    The scientific research and its results is the evidence itself : The creation is so complex that it could not just happen.

    Do we tell the child all the complicated details at age 3 ?
    No we don’t . We tend to simplify the information. Often telling “fairy tales “.

    …………

    Designed and coded. In symbols, metaphors, to make it less clear, to make the audience think. To find their own messages, the answers. Or to have fun. To relax.

    Now we try to de-code the DNA. Great for the physical well being. Which affect the mental health as well.
    But when we start de-coding the mind, we always come to the original source.

    For me only kabbalistic de-coding could answer my spiritual questions. Not if the God exists. For me – there is no doubt. By why ? Why this everything ? Why the actors should folow the script ? Why we need science ? Why we need to know what to eat..how to age ? Why even to live ?

    Why to wear the costumes ?

    As we are part of “something ” bigger . Because we crave appreciation. The reward : the love. As we fear the opposite : Rejection. Because we serve to the audience to serve and to bring a certain message. Serving to God at the first place. To serve God is to serve ” good “. What is good ? We know well. What makes parents happy ? A happy and a healthy, good child. Who wins over all evil.

    The only way how to survive here, in my opinion ( based on some experience and studies ), and keep our minds in peace, is to accept, that we are needed. That we all have a role to play. And without us the design would be incomplete and embarrasing.

    Have you ever seen the funny mistakes of movie designers who would give modern props to medieval characters ? Doesn’t work.
    If the cleaner doesn’t clean and dry the stage in the theatre…the actors slip…they can break the leg…the show is over. If there would be no cleaners the scientists would die on infection. Without the researchers we would not know why to clean. Really ? Actually…my mother told me someting about hygiene…I have my survival instincts…which evolved….Oh yes..it was written somewhere…..long time ago…in books…before science…by some crazy “inspired ” prophets. We need evidence. We do. As there are people who lie. Who break the good. As they don’t believe that the “good” is the best 🙂

    This is a personal story. Individual opinion. Not a fact. But it completely works for me. The God I believe in is the bike light put on the 3D model of the stage…where I…little funny figure…woul be lost for sure in the darkness . To live without light is very diffucult. For me light = love. The love was not created by Big bang. It’s not only genetic attraction. There is physical chemistry and spiritual connection. The spiritual light = love – reflects divine presence among people. We like healthy and beautiful bodies, but we love the souls. The godliness within us.

    Albert Einstein said when he heard Yehudi Menuhin playing violin :

    “Now I know that there is a God!”

    Big Bang ? What is musical talent ? Evolved from a frog’s brain ?
    Classical music compostion ? No, God found out that Bible got completely missunderstood…interpreted in often ugly way. So he “jumped” into the best musical composer’s souls and screamed out loud the notes.

    I live in England. The long dark winter days can be depressing. I listen to God. Oh, I mean to Yehudi Menuhin playing Gershwins ” Summertime”. You can buy it on I – tunes 🙂 = THE ABSOLUTE EVIDENCE

    WISHING YOU ALL BEST 🙂