Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yated on Global Warming

"Is Global Warming a Scientific Hoax?" by Yaakov Kornreich. Yated Ne'eman (U.S. Edition), December 4th 2009.

(Thanks to Baruch for sending me the article. I don't know anything about Yaakov Kornreich, but according to what I found on the internet, he published a book for NCSY in 1970 entitled Jewish Youth Monthly, A Science and Torah Reader. Here is a small extract from the Yated article.)

The Evolution Analogy

Global warming has been promoted as science, but in fact it is no more scientific than evolution, which has also been promoted by the liberal, secular left as a means with which to try to discredit all forms of traditional religious belief.

While evolution had its roots in the relatively crude scientific theories promoted by Charles Darwin 150 years ago, it has been promoted ever since by committed secularists as a weapon with which to attack the credibility of the Torah Sheb'ksav and to heap ridicule on the simple faith of people.

Religious scientists have proposed numerous alternative theories which are as consistent with the biological and archaeological evidence discovered since Darwin's time as the current version of evolution, which requires as much faith to believe as any religion.

Similarly, global warming has been zealously promoted by the far left wing for reasons which have very little to do with the findings of science, and which are, in fact, driven by its political ideology.
Perhaps global warming has indeed been promoted for reasons driven by political ideology rather than science. On the other hand, the same is most certainly true for the Yated's opposition.

39 comments:

  1. R' Slifkin, are you at all surprised by the Yated article?

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  2. I thought your criticism was very fair. Just one part of the introduction that I have a question on:

    "he published a book ... which presents the approach that God created the universe a few thousand years ago with the appearance of great age."

    Just curious if this approach was the only one he presented, or one of several.

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  3. > Global warming has been promoted as science, but in fact it is no more scientific than evolution

    The funny thing here is that technically he’s right. If anything, global warming is less established than evolution.

    > which has also been promoted by the liberal, secular left as a means with which to try to discredit all forms of traditional religious belief.

    Strawman. Evolution calls certain aspects of traditional beliefs into question, and requires some reinterpretation, but it isn’t in itself an argument against religion. At most, it makes God superfluous. It certainly wasn’t intended specifically to discredit religion.

    I wonder if he also has a problem with the idea that lightening is giant discharges of static electricity rather than solely an expression of Divine wrath?

    > to heap ridicule on the simple faith of people.

    Anyone who resorts to “simple faith” to defend a premise deserves to be ridiculed.

    > the current version of evolution, which requires as much faith to believe as any religion

    Evolution proposes no invisible all-powerful being Who deliberately orchestrated events and designed the world to hide His presence, but must be believed in anyway.

    > Perhaps global warming has indeed been promoted for reasons driven by political ideology rather than science. On the other hand, the same is most certainly true for the Yated's opposition.

    It’s always like that. If I have a problem with a Torah precept, it’s because I want to find an excuse to throw off the ol hatorah and am hopelessly nogeah b’davar. If someone defends the same precept it is because it is obviously the truth. That they are equally biased in the other direction never occurs to them.

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  4. I'm sure there are people promoting the idea of climate change for ideological reasons, but I think the bigger part of it is that once the individuals are convinced that it is true, and believe the alarmist interpretations of Gore et. al, then there is an understandable tendency to exaggerate data, refuse to publish data that go against their views, etc. It seems like this is what ClimateGate illustrates. Think about the vaccine-autism example -- most scientists say there is no such link, and imagine one of these scientists doing a study that finds that there is such link. In such a case I wouldn't be surprised at all, given the emotions and consequences of this issue, that the scientist would just sit on the data and not publish it. The same goes for cell phones and cancer -- an area where there is good data on both sides, but in which the majority insist there is no connection. Global warming is like this -- there are scientists on both sides (700 scientists have signed up against the global warming thesis, even if some of them are TV meteorologists!).

    There are also big issues of economic interest and philosophy -- many or even most people to the right of center on economic issues reject the anthropomorphic climate change thesis because really doing something about it would require massive government-influenced changes in the economy and probably lower rates of economic growth. The association of Orthodox Jews with right-wing politics may explain some of it.

    Personally, since I'm left-wing on environmental and economic issues, I don't mind if we regulate carbon even if humans aren't causing climate change at all, since doing so could bring us closer to a lower-impact economy. The fear, of course, is that the policymakers hyping up global warming have just this attitude, and want to impose more environmental regulation through fear.

    Some of this just has to do with people's perceptions of common sense. On the one hand, it makes sense that burning millions of tons of fossil fuels might influence the climate. On the other hand, next to that, it seems incredible and difficult to believe that small decreases in carbon output, such as those that would be achieved through all possible policy outcomes, could reverse something with such a huge cause.

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  5. Climategate and its attendant e-mails have crystallized this discussion.
    If you still believe in global warming, after many of its leading propoents have been caught admitting they made much of it up, you'll believe anything.

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  6. "Perhaps global warming has indeed been promoted for reasons driven by political ideology rather than science."

    A slight shift in you understanding, isn't it?

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  7. December 10, 2009, 7:35 PM (EST)
    For the record, I am the editor of “A Science and Torah Reader.” The bulk of that publication consists of reprinted articles written by prominent Orthodox Jewish scientists of that time, as well as by noted rabbinic authorities including Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Jakobovitz, The Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rav Kook. As the editor, I selected the articles and wrote connecting and explanatory material intended to make some of the more technical concepts more accessible to lay readers, but I did not endorse any specific approach. This is the opening paragraph I wrote 40 years ago for the Foreword to “A Science and Torah Reader:
    “This anthology brings together the thoughts and writings of scholars of Torah and science, reacting to questions arising out of the relationship and interaction between the two fields. Due to the great diversity of opinions and the rapid pace of scientific development, no attempt has been made to set forth any one particular approach to all the problems that are discussed here, as the best or most proper. While acknowledging the supremacy of Torah over all human thought, Jews committed to Torah may still retain differences of opinion in their evaluation of scientific concepts.”
    My current criticism of the proponents of the global warming theory, as recently published in the Yated, is based primarily on the fact that their claims of global warming and dire predictions of disastrous climate changes due to greenhouse gas emissions as proven facts, are simply not supported by the available scientific evidence. Greenhouse gases do tend to warm the atmosphere, and measurements between 1970 and 2000 indicate that a gradual increase in the average temperature of the Earth did take place, but that does not prove the existence of a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the two.
    Some climatologists suspect that other factors , such as deep ocean currents or variations in the intensity of solar radiation, might be equally responsible for the observed global temperature changes. At this time, science has no way to prove, by direct experiment and measurement, which of these factors is dominant, nor can it prove that reducing manmade emissions of greenhouse gases would, by itself, significantly affect the rate of global climate change.
    The recent admissions by proponents of global warming that they conspired to prevent the publication of competing theories, and altered or suppressed the scientific data indicating that global warming came to a halt during the past decade, has undermined the credibility of their conclusions. Such conduct proves that they have crossed over from objective scientific inquiry into the realm of defending dogma.
    G*3 is correct when he says that, in its original form, evolution was not “intended specifically to discredit religion.” But at a later point, evolution was certainly seized upon by the opponents of religious faith, who then used it, without regard for the ground rules of science, to advance their own atheist agenda. The point of my article in the Yated is that much the same thing has now happened to the global warming theory.

    Yaakov Kornreich
    Brooklyn, NY
    yaakovk@aol.com

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  8. It's by the Yated, what did you think? They would present evidence to prove their case? HAHA

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  9. There is global warming and there is the Doctrine of Global Warming.
    The Doctrine calls for a powerful UN, major reparations from the evil USA, and the end of capitalism and individualism.

    This is similar to evolution as a biological process, similar to gravity in physics on one hand. On the the other hand we have Evolution as a Doctrine. According to the Doctrine, all life, including human life is nothing more than the product of a random process.
    Josh from Dallas

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  10. Yated is right - there is an international conspiracy of scientists all over the world. We secretly just hate big business and want to secretly use global warming, evolution, and heliocentrism to control the world. (We really haven't figured out how to actually use this all to our advantage, but we're working on it). In fact, we don't allow anyone new to get a PHD unless they've first been indoctrinated into our secret society. This is why people who believe global warming and evolution are scientific hoaxes somehow never get PHDs in science.

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  11. R' Kornreich, thank you for clarifying your position. May I ask you a question? You wrote that "Religious scientists have proposed numerous alternative theories which are as consistent with the biological and archaeological evidence discovered since Darwin's time as the current version of evolution." Which religious scientists did you have in mind?

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  12. In formal logic, from false one can prove everything. Who thinks that the Earth is younger than 6000 years is bound to develop idiotic views about fossil fuels.

    My understanding is that the global warming that we see is caused by our burning of fossil fuels. From now on, because we are now very close to the maximum production capacity of this fuel, the rate of burning it is determined solely by the production capacity of oil and gas fields. In other words, the "Kopenhagen" hype cannot and will not lead to reduced CO2 emission. The CO2 emission rate is irrelevant in any case. We will burn most of what is easily accessible, and the final atmospheric state will not depend on the rate of that burning. We still have about ten years to develop realistic alternative ways to provide energy.

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  13. > Think about the vaccine-autism example -- most scientists say there is no such link, and imagine one of these scientists doing a study that finds that there is such link. In such a case I wouldn't be surprised at all, given the emotions and consequences of this issue, that the scientist would just sit on the data and not publish it.

    The vaccine-autism link is based on correlation and the fact that mercury is poisonous. The pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines phased out the use of mercury-based preservatives years ago, yet new cases of autism continue to be diagnosed at the same rate. That’s good grounds for assuming the vaccines and incidences of autism are unrelated.

    If there was evidence found of a link, it probably would be published. The guy who figured it out would become famous, and would probably get very rich testifying for all the families who would be suing the pharmaceutical companies. What would be the motivation for not publishing?

    > On the the other hand we have Evolution as a Doctrine. According to the Doctrine, all life, including human life is nothing more than the product of a random process.

    What you describe is more the Bogey Man of Evolution believed my many religious people. Evolution is not random, any more than, say, the way that different types of atoms come together to form molecules is random. There are rules by which it works. If one accepts that evolution is in fact the explanation for biodiversity, then one must also accept that humans are products of evolution. None of this has anything to do with a nefarious plot to undermine religion.

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  14. In "A Science and Torah Reader" I included three articles on scientific criticisms and possible alternatives to evolution. They were written by Robert Perlman, Dr. Morris Goldman and Dr. L. M. Spetner. The first was written for a lay audience and the second for teachers. Neither one was intended to be a rigorous scientific presentations.

    Dr. Spetner's article, however, was based upon a paper that he originally delivered at a meeting of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists in January, 1965. It was later published in that organization's Proceedings. At the end of his paper, Dr. Spetner cites 16 specific references to the scientific literature of that time to document his arguments.

    I suggest that all three of these articles, including Dr. Spetner's references, would serve as a good starting point for someone interested in a critical analysis of the science of evolution.

    While obviously there have been extensive scientific findings since those articles were written, I do not believe that they discredit the fundamental conclusions drawn by those authors about evolution at that time. While those authors would, no doubt, cite more recent evidence if they were asked to write on the same topic today, I believe that, for the most part, their critiques of evolution would remain largely the same, and is still valid.

    Yaakov Kornreich
    Brooklyn, NY

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  15. I am not familiar with Perlman or Goldman. With regard to Spetner, as far as I recall, he does not present any evidence disputing the fact that all living things descended from a common ancestor over millions of years. His only dispute is with regard to the mechanism via how this happened. The same goes for all scientists associated with the Intelligent Design movement, such as Michael Behe. They agree that humans evolved from apes, that all mammals evolved from reptiles, that all reptiles evolved from aquatic creatures, etc. They only dispute the mechanism via which this happens. These are the theories that they propose as "consistent with the biological and archaeological evidence." The Yated readers presumably think you mean something very different, which means that they are being misled.

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  16. R' Slifkin, don't you want to 'update' the original post to explain that R' Kornreich didn't just "present the approach that God created the universe a few thousand years ago with the appearance of great age", but rather presented it as one of several views? Many readers won't bother to look at these comments, and might gather that you're relying on the internet and misrepresenting R' Kornreich.

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  17. For a thorough refutation of Spetner's view, see 'Unintelligent Design' by Mark Perakh.

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  18. משה רפאל said: "...Who thinks that the Earth is younger than 6000 years is bound to develop idiotic views about fossil fuels."

    Do you mean, like this?
    http://www.physorg.com/news176559602.html
    "Scientists are reporting new evidence that oil may have originated from processes other that the decay of prehistoric plants."

    Last I checked, the folks at Physorg reject the 6000 year theory. Sorry that this might take us off the topic of Global warming.

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  19. J said: "For a thorough refutation of Spetner's view, see ... Perakh"

    Funny that Spetner is a biophysicist and Perakh is a mathematician, physicist (not bio-) and teaches statistical mechanics.

    Scientists might want to keep that in mind when they dismiss so-called deniers of this-or-that widely held theory because they don't even have a degree in the field. For some purposes, being excellent in logic is even more important than a degree.

    I imagine that it is your opinion that Perakh's arguments are /excellent/, not just thorough.

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  20. Spetner's article expresses serious doubts about both the classic Darwinian theory of evolution, due to serious problems with the fossil record on which it is based, and what Spetner calls the Synthetic Theory of Evolution, which, he says is "primarily a combination of random mutation and natural selection." While he said that the Synthetic Theory was more widely held by the scientists of his day, in Spetner's opinion, it was "little more than a reasonable hypothesis, which cannot be tested." Spetner also challenges the plausibility of the idea that life as we know it today could have evolved from single cell organisms via the process of random mutation, as it was understood at that time, within the time frame suggested by the proponents of the Synthetic Theory.

    I also wish to emphasize that Spetner's criticism of evolution was only one of several different approaches by both religious scientists and rabbis, in response to evolution, which I presented to readers of "A Science and Torah Reader." I did not attempt to select a particular favorite among them at that time, and do not see a compelling reason to do so now.

    Yaakov Kornreich

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  21. Oh. Well, in that case, I'll just point out that he is not a paleontologist and therefore is not a scientist with regard to the fossil record.

    I'd be interested to hear how he does explain all the fossils of extinct species, which are geographically and chronologically situated so as to present the appearance of being transitional stages to the creatures that exist today. I suspect that he doesn't address it and hasn't really thought about it.

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  22. This exact phenomenon is simultaneously being relevantly critiqued on Neurologica. You may be interested in this blog by skeptic-neurologist Dr. Steve Novella...the latest in his legendary exchange between him and the creationist-neurosurgeon Dr.Egnor.

    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=1343#more-1343

    I suggest following Neurologica back through the exchanges for a classic example of science, as represented by Dr. Novella vs. pseudoscience, as represented by Dr. Egnor. Novella's analysis are very insightful and precise. These exchanges include different topics relevant to Rationalist Judaism including a priceless exchange about mind and brain.

    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?s=egnor

    Novella always links to the relevant Egnor blog which is on the local Discovery Institute's [famous for their advocacy of "intelligent design"] website.

    Relevant and instructive.

    Gary Goldwater

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  23. In fact, Spetner does address the evidence in the fossil record, as it existed when he wrote his article, in some detail. He points out that "as more data becomes available, in many ways the evolutionary picture gets more complicated rather than simpler. . . Complicated networks of 'convergences' and 'parallelisms' have to be invented to retain the evolutionary structure."

    Spetner seems to be suggesting that evolution violates the general principle of Occam's razor which says that when faced with a choice between competing theories, we should prefer the hypothesis that requires the fewest assumptions and postulates in order to explain the observed facts.

    Also, in my view, the fact that Spetner is not a paleontologist has no bearing on this discussion. A scientist remains a scientist as long as his analysis is based upon the experimental evidence and the rules of logic. As long as he can prove his case, whether or not he holds an academic degree in the particular field under discussion is irrelevant. His argument deserves to be judged on its scientific merits, not whether or not he has undergone the admission ritual required to join a particular professional club. Should we dismiss the light bulb, the phonograph and the movie camera just because Thomas Edison invented them without first getting a college degree in engineering?

    Yaakov Kornreich

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  24. Spetner seems to be suggesting that evolution violates the general principle of Occam's razor which says that when faced with a choice between competing theories, we should prefer the hypothesis that requires the fewest assumptions and postulates in order to explain the observed facts.

    So what is he suggesting that we should accept? That over the last few hundred million years, God continually created new species from scratch?

    Also, in my view, the fact that Spetner is not a paleontologist has no bearing on this discussion... As long as he can prove his case, whether or not he holds an academic degree in the particular field under discussion is irrelevant.

    Correct. However, when referring in your article to "scientists who have proposed theories," you are claiming that these theories have credibility based on the scientific credentials of the people. And Spetner has none in this field.

    By the way, I just checked Spetner's book Not By Chance. The way I see it, he does accept that all animals evolved from a common ancestor. He presents what he calls the "Non Random Evolutionary Hypothesis" as "an explanation of evolution" (p. 210).

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  25. You can't have it both ways. You contend that, "when referring in your article to "scientists who have proposed theories," you are claiming that these theories have credibility based on the scientific credentials of the people. And Spetner has none in this field." That implies that you do not believe that Spetner has the necessary credentials to express a credible opinion on evolution. Then you turn around and cite Spetner's opinions on evolution in his book, when they happen to agree with your own, as if they are authoritative. Which is it?

    When I referred in my article to "scientists who have proposed theories" proposing alternatives to evolution to explain how life on Earth came to be in the state we find it today, I did not imply that they were credentialed as biologists, paleontologists, of in any other closely related field. I do not believe that is necessarily. Once a scientist has mastered the scientific method of critical analysis and matching theories to the experimental data, that scientist is qualified to apply those methods to all scientific fields, and good scientists are generally encouraged to do so. In fact, there are numerous examples of scientists who have made important contributions to fields of science outside of their original area of training.

    Once again, I reiterate that a scientist's theory, in whatever field, deserves to be judged exclusively on its own scientific merits. I do not apologize for recognizing the value of the opinions of respected scientists from outside the fields of biology and paleontology on evolution, nor do I believe that I misled the readers of Yated by referring to them, in passing, in my article, which dealt primarily on another example of a debatable scientific theory which has been appropriated by non-scientists to further another ideological agenda, namely, Global Warming.

    Yaakov Kornreich

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  26. You can't have it both ways. You contend that, "when referring in your article to "scientists who have proposed theories," you are claiming that these theories have credibility based on the scientific credentials of the people. And Spetner has none in this field." That implies that you do not believe that Spetner has the necessary credentials to express a credible opinion on evolution. Then you turn around and cite Spetner's opinions on evolution in his book, when they happen to agree with your own, as if they are authoritative. Which is it?

    I don't need Spetner to support my views! My views are supported (or rather, based on) the entire global community of biologists and paleontologists. I don't consider Spetner authoritative in this area. I was pointing out that since you do, you should be aware that it seems that he isn't supporting your perspective anyway. He doesn't believe that Hashem created all species separately (and certainly not 5770 years ago).

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  27. Why do you insist on assigning to me a specific preference for or against any theory among the many alternatives to those versions of evolution which atheists claim is incompatible with belief in the Divine creation of the universe and life as we know it?

    In my book, I included Spetner's article as one of 3 alternative approaches to evolution because I thought at that time, 40 years ago, that it offered one of the most interesting among the available written expositions on the scientific evidence regarding evolution at the time.

    There were other approaches cited, as well as a more fundamental argument which contends that evolution is impossible to prove or disprove using scientific methodology, since it is based on assumptions which cannot be experimentally tested.

    Also, of course, there are numerous perushim on Ma'aseh B'reishis which provide alternative interpretations to a strictly literal dictionary translation of the narrative at the beginning of Sefer Bereishis, some of which which do not limit the age of the Universe to 5770 of our calendar years.

    Why do you insist that I must choose a single approach, whether it be Spetner's, yours, or the others I cited in my book?

    Yaakov Kornreich

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  28. Why do you insist on assigning to me a specific preference for or against any theory among the many alternatives to those versions of evolution

    I don't. I would like to hear all the alternatives which you claim are presented by scientists.

    My point is this. You can find scientists who dispute natural selection & genetic mutation as the MECHANISM of evolution. However, I thought you were saying in your article that there are scientists who dispute that all life evolved from a common ancestor and who present alternative theories which account for the evidence. That is not the case.

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  29. My statement in the Yated that there are multiple arguments presented by religious scientists which provide rational alternatives to the argument by secularists that evolution discredits the Torah was more general in nature. It rested on the four general approaches to the question which I addressed in my book 40 years ago:
    1. That there are significant inconsistencies between all of the evolution theories and the experimental data
    2. All of the evolution theories are based upon assumptions that cannot be tested by experiment
    3. All of the theories of the origin of the universe and/or life bring us back to a point in time at which there was some critical starting event whose nature we do not understand. Once you assume that some such discontinuity in the natural order exists, it no longer becomes possible to say with any certainty that it happened at a sooner or later point.
    4. Acceptable Torah responses to evolution need not defend a literal translation of the Torah She'b'ksav in Bereishis, both in terms of the order of creation, its details or its duration.

    I consider all of those kinds of arguments to be rational, valid, and defensible, without having to get into the specific details of any one of them. That, I believe, was sufficient justification for my comment in Yated, in an article on a different topic, that such alternative arguments do exist.

    Yaakov Kornreich

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  30. "I'd be interested to hear how he does explain all the fossils of extinct species, which are geographically and chronologically situated so as to present the appearance of being transitional stages to the creatures that exist today."

    This is really really disingenuous.

    The new findings are constantly causing a rewrite of the structure and history of how these things fit together. Ardi just being one of the latest examples.

    On the side, can somebody explain to me how natural selection causes a woman to stop knowing her ovulation for the purpose of not cheating the "system" of the males giving her food for sex?

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/10/091001-ardipithecus-ramidus-ardi-oldest-human-fossils-sex.html

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  31. From that National Geographic link: "According to Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University, it all comes down to food, and sex. "

    Y'gotta just love appropriate names like that.

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  32. I only know it as a connard that we evolved from apes. I do know that we are homini (nice shart here);

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hominini

    ..but share a common ancestor - not as descendants ("cousins");

    http://www.pnas.org/content/104/49/19220.full.pdf+html

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  33. Rabbi Kornreich apparently has little understanding of scientific methodology beyond the simplistic and mainly incorrect idea that scientists formulate hypotheses and test them and thereby "prove" them. Anything else is then considered suspect.

    Science is a process of inference to the best explanation. A hypotheses is a current best explanation and experimental data is but one way we try to verify whether such explanations fit with data.

    In that sense evolutionary theory is one of the best explanations as it provides a unified explanation of data gathered from a variety of fields using a variety of different methods and has suggested programs of further research that have resulted in further discoveries and explanations that cohere with, and thus support the evolutionary meta-explanatory framework.

    Having personally worked side-by-side at the bench with half a dozen other orthodox biologists and having studied with others and after having been professionally and personally acquainted with yet more, I can say without reservation that the vast majority of us who believe that standard evolutionary theory is the best explanation and that attempts at so-called reconciliation with Torah is unnecessary and foolish. We do not write articles on Torah and science, we do not publish in Tradition or the Jewish Observer or even attend the UOJS conferences anymore since they became nothing more than weekend getaways for MDs and DDSs to get CMA credits.

    We simply publish in scientific journals like all our colleagues in the small sub-fields that most laypeople would probably find rather boring. We do not get involved in these intrareligious fights because they are driven solely by religious dogmatic considerations which we do not share in by laypeople with religious dogmatic agendas who will not be persuaded by argument or by evidence.

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  34. My understanding of scientific methodology is based upon my experience both as a graduate student in physics and working in an experimental physics lab at the time that I edited "A Science and Torah Reader." While I am a journalist today, I have never lost my interest in science and continually use the scientific method in my current work. I agree with MJ that, with regard to current scientific hypotheses, "attempts at so-called reconciliation with Torah is unnecessary" although not foolish. That is because the basic conclusions of what MJ calls "standard evolution theory" is only one of several possible explanations of the observed scientific data, and as I have said in previous posts to this blog, suffers from a number of shortcomings from a strictly scientific perspective. (By the way, I am not a rabbi. Any criticisms in my logic should be directed at me alone, and should not to the rabbinic community.)

    Which brings us back to Rabbi Slifkin's comment citing Dr. Spetner's "Non-Random Evolutionary Hypothesis." In Chapter 7 of Spetner's 1997 book, "Not By Chance" he cites research findings which offer alternative explanations of observed mutational and non-mutational changes in species of bacterium and larger organism, such as finches (birds), some of which are not genetic at all, but entirely due to environmental stimuli. Spetner suggests that such changes may be due to environmental triggers which activate previously inactive sections of an organism's genome which result in major changes all at once. Spetner also suggests that many such inactive sections lay dormant in the genome waiting for activation by an environmental cue. He also notes remarkable similarities among the genome sequences across a wide variety of species. That seems to be inconsistent with Rabbi Slifkin's conclusion that Spetner "doesn't believe that Hashem created all species separately (and certainly not 5770 years ago)."

    An alternative interpretation of Spetner's position is that the environmental activation of these dormant genetic codes could be the primary mechanism responsible for the observed differentiation in pattern of life which is commonly called evolution, and that it does not require an extended time frame.

    Yaakov Kornreich

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  35. Dear Natan Slifkin, Yaakov Kornreich, et al.,

    Thank you both for your ideas and your spirited discussion. I'd like to add a few of my own.

    With regard to global warming, consider the following:

    ca. Chanukah 100,000 people

    ca. 1800 CE 1 billion people

    ca. 1950 CE 3 billion people

    ca. 2000 CE 6 billion people

    ca. 2050 CE 10 billion people (est.)

    Whether one is a scientist, a Torah scholar, or someone in between, it's obvious that until about 1950, there was no need for concern. But as population continues to double, the amount of heat we produce from all of our activities will also continue to double.

    As anyone knows who has tried it, there is no problem if you put a paper cup over a 7.5-watt miniature light bulb. But if you put a paper cover over a 75-watt light bulb, you're going to have a fire.

    No one can say exactly where the tipping point is, but similarly, no one can deny that there must be a tipping point. Nothing in the physical world can produce more and more heat, and not get hotter and hotter eventually.

    The reason that prudent people would want to cut back on their, and their neighbors', and their nations', energy use is precisely because no one knows where the tipping point is, and everyone is sure there is a tipping point. No prudent person thinks they can drink an unlimited amount of alcohol without getting drunk, just because they don't know exactly at what point they've had too much.

    In my opinion, the rest is politics, and whether we want to act and justify acting, or want to not act and justify not acting.

    With regard to "Intelligent Design," see part 2 of my posting, following below.

    Stan Tenen
    www.meru.org

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  36. (Tenen posting Part 2)

    With regard to so-called "Intelligent Design," a few thoughts are in order.

    1) Before we bash each other over our own pet theories of science and Torah, it seems to me we should do our homework, ask ourselves "how does Hashem-Elokim do it," (because ultimately, everyone reading this list knows that Hashem-Elokim does do it), and see what our sages have to say about this.

    I haven't seen any discussion whatsoever of how Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi starts with the psalm's teaching that "Hashem-Elokim is a sun and a shield," and then goes on to describe how this leads to and feeds all life.

    I haven't seen any discussion whatsoever of the greatest Kabbalistic teaching-work of our entire tradition, Shabetai Sheftel Horowitz' "Shefa Tal," which tells us precisely and in great detail how Hashem-Elokim does it. (Via the shefa tal, of course.) (If you pick up an edition, get the oldest one you can, because the more recent the edition, the more "improved" (i.e., distorted) the illustrations are.)

    Cutting to the chase, Hashem-Elokim does not do it via intelligence per se. Instead, Hashem-Elokim provides an eternal flow of negentropy, traditionally referred to as the "shefa tal." The negentropic gradient of the shefa tal provides the fuel for the choices and decisions made by creatures and creations in the natural world. The pure transcendent info at the level of our understanding of the Singularity of Hashem is transformed into intelligent behavior of the natural world, represented by the Name Elokim.

    2) Hashem-Elokim has no discernable features besides absolute Singularity. All the other features we mention are allegorical. Only an incarnate being -- by the definition of the word "intelligence" -- can have intelligence. Thus, the idea of "Intelligent Design" is not inconsistent with Christian theology or with the Zeus-god of Greek mythology. But Intelligent Design is entirely inconsistent with the Jewish conception of a singular and entirely transcendent Hashem-Elokim.

    3) We should stop beating dead horses. No one is defending what Darwin originally proposed, in the terms he originally proposed it.

    Likewise, we don't live in a Newtonian universe, as presumed by all of the statistical calculations that appear to show that there wasn't enough time for evolution, or that there's some such thing as "irreducible complexity." Instead, we live in a quantum mechanical universe, where events take place in parallel, in superposition, and essentially all at once, entangled and in the same moment.

    It's modern evolutionary theory, based on quantum mechanics, that can be defended as the most reasonable, compact, and elegant understanding so far envisioned on the subject.

    (Posting concluded in Part 3)
    Stan Tenen
    www.meru.org

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  37. (Tenen posting, part 3)

    4) Contrary to the beliefs and opinions of many of my colleagues, creation in B'reshit is not about physics. It's about information.

    The cutting edge of physics these days acknowledges "It from Bit," that "It", the "things" of physics, derives from "Bit", a deeper level of information.

    Sefer Yetzirah as a commentary on B'reshit and the alphabet is not the "Book of Formation;" it's the "Book of INformation."

    And at the level of information, there is no need for apologia, sophistry, rationalization, fine-tuning, or mystical interpretations. B'reshit 1:1 is spot-on. B'reshit 1:1 can be shown to meet the "Von Neumann challenge" as set forth by Doug Hofstaedter -- i.e., it appears to pass the logician's test for a living information system.

    i.e., Torah really is a "Tree of Life for those who grasp it" -- at the level of information, not at the level of physics, chemistry, or biology, though these all ultimately derive -- "It from Bit" -- from the level of information.

    5) Evolution takes place by means that are intrinsic to Torah and Torah living. These include circumcision, which affects gene expression and neural development, and a functioning minyan, which as a true knesset (Qof-Num-Samek-Tav) can have new, novel, emergent properties (nes, nesim, "miracles"), including those affecting gene expression.

    So yes, there is a science of consciousness level to Torah, and this is what we should be reaching for before we divide up into political camps, tear down the Temple of Torah learning, and beat ourselves to death with the limp body of poor old Bar Khamsa.

    And if you read my bloviating here out loud, you'll certainly be contributing to global warming.

    Stan Tenen
    Meru Foundation
    www.meru.org

    For a bit more of my thinking, go to
    http://www.meru.org/coast/Intelligence-vs-Information.html

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  38. Josh is right. And furthermore, the doctrine that's known as scientific contradicts both scientific fact and the scientific community. Those who brandish science as doctrine are not real scientists.

    In the case of evolution, the doctrine insists that all features of life are upwardly caused by genes. Real science, however, includes many downward influences on genes from individuals, groups, environment, etc.

    In the case of global warming, the doctrine insists that it's caused by habits of common lifestyles. Real science, however, places the blame squarely on the enormous processes performed by factories built and defended by the rich elite.

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