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.
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.