Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chassidic Rebbe Discovers Evolution (Almost)

Earlier this week, I had a meeting with a Chassidic Rebbe in Jerusalem. The purpose of the meeting is not relevant to this forum, and I won't be naming the sect. However, during the meeting, we sidetracked to a different topic, which is of interest.

When the Rebbe learned of my interest in zoology, his eyes lit up in interest. He told me that he had read in HaModia that a lion had been caught in Midbar Yehudah. I told him that I didn't think that was possible, since all the lions in this area were killed out around a thousand years ago, but perhaps it was a leopard. The only lions today are in Africa, and a small population in India.

The Rebbe was intrigued: were there not lions in every country in the world? I informed him that no, lions only ever existed in certain countries. Each species of animal is restricted to different regions.

The Rebbe found this remarkable. Why would Hashem decide to put certain animals in certain countries? (He was so taken by this question, that he didn't even get on to the question of how the animals got to those countries after the Deluge!)

"It's complicated," I said. Changing the topic somewhat, I shared with him an insight regarding the lion being the symbol of gevurah, power: It is the only member of the cat family that lives in groups. Big cats are aggressive, and have a hard time getting along with each other; tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, and cougars all live alone. Only the lion lives in large family groups, being able to subdue its aggression. And thus it epitomizes gevurah, as the Mishnah says: Who is mighty? He that conquers his inclination.

The Rebbe was fascinated by something I had said. What did it mean that the lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar were all "in the cat family"? Were they cats? Surely a lion would eat a cat! I explained that they all have certain anatomical similarities which makes them into one family. The Rebbe found this intriguing.

I had other business to attend to, and I didn't really feel like pursuing the discussion further. But what was happening was this: The Rebbe was asking the exact questions that led Charles Darwin to evolution.

Why are certain animals very similar to each other and very different from other animals? Why do lions and tigers and leopards and jaguars all resemble each other in various ways, while dogs and wolves and foxes and jackals all share different similarities? Why, at a broader scale, do whales and dogs and bats all share more basic similarities, that are not shared with fish and birds?

Why do certain animals live in certain parts of the world? Why do almost all marsupials live in Australia, and nowhere else? Why do islands so often have their own unique species?

The answers to all these questions emerges from a very simple insight: All animals descended from common ancestors. Lions and tigers and leopards and jaguars are all descended from an ancestral cat. Whales and dogs and bats are all descended from an ancestral mammal. And because animals emerged from common ancestors, they are often restricted to the locations of those ancestors.

I suspect that if common ancestry could be evaluated by itself, without any connection to the mechanisms of evolution, the evolution of man, and without any connection to godless atheists, a lot more people would be able to accept it. They would be receptive to Rav Hirsch's description of it being part of God's "creative wisdom."





52 comments:

  1. There would still be the problem of the amount of time implied by common ancestry. Most charedim, in my experience, don't really find a difference between believing that the word is more than 5772 years old and believing in evolution.

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  2. Interesting post-fits very nicely into an upcoming talk on what does "Torah Only" mean in contrast to "Torah and.." and which is the more traditional approach.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  3. Similarities do not prove common ancestry. They only prove that animals are created with the same base structure. If they animals were created by the divine, they were created by the same divine and not multiple ones with various ideas of how one should go about it.

    Gd was a good programmer and used encapsulation and object oriented design along with polymorphism.

    Whether he used emergent design patterns, or designed via a UML diagram method can not be derived from noted similarities in the "classes"

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  4. Great. And when you go back to visit him in a couple of years he'll have a new haircut, be wearing a nice modern suit, being going by his English name and talk to you about his PhD which he started working on when, on your advice, he started thinking which led to him not believing...

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  5. "I suspect that if common ancestry could be evaluated by itself, without any connection to the mechanisms of evolution, the evolution of man, and without any connection to godless atheists, a lot more people would be able to accept it."

    Yes, absolutely. But it seems that this battle has already been won, and I mean that science has won. There are scores of books and periodicals available to the religious public in which evolution [and its close cousin, in this regard, the Big Bang theory] are accepted and reconciled with traditional sources. Except among the most uneducated of charedim, these are no longer demarcation lines for religious Jews.

    In fact, almost nothing is anymore, with the posible exception of Biblical criticism [and even that can be reconciled, in the Breur mold.] People have no compunctions at "shtipping in" the most outlandish explanations into pesukim or midrashim and saying "this is what they meant." so there is almost literally nothing that cannot be made to square with traditional orthodoxy.

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  6. Ameteur: Love the software engineering analogy. Wonder how much of it flew over non-IT people's heads.

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  7. You know, you can talk about the evolution aspects of the conversation--or you can note that grown man with an intellectual curiosity about the subject is utterly clueless about the basics of 5th grade biology. That to me is the most noteworthy part of the conversation.

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  8. I agree with SQ. My first thought was that this man is a Rebbe, a community leader, and he doesn’t know that there aren’t lions everywhere! He doesn’t even know how much he doesn’t know.

    > I shared with him an insight regarding the lion being the symbol of gevurah, power: … Only the lion lives in large family groups, being able to subdue its aggression. And thus it epitomizes gevurah, as the Mishnah says: Who is mighty? He that conquers his inclination.

    Cute, but the lion is a symbol of power and majesty in many cultures. (It appears on the English royal arms, among others.) It’s unlikely that’s because of your vort. It’s far more likely that the lion has the symbolism it has in Judaism because of its associations in the surrounding cultures than that other way around.

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  9. I find Natan Slifkin's arrogance just painful. Instead of just discussing an issue, he consistently includes an "uneducated charedi" in his pieces. If Natan simply wrote about an issue, no one would read it because he's far from an expert. So, he places himself next to an "uneducated charedi" to make him self look good and to highlight his real point of discussion: those darn "uneducated charedim".

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  10. "Instead of just discussing an issue, he consistently includes an "uneducated charedi" in his pieces."

    This wasn't some straw man/archetype he invented to make a rhetorical point. This was a real-life chassidish rebbe he personally met!

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  11. or you can note that grown man with an intellectual curiosity about the subject is utterly clueless about the basics of 5th grade biology. That to me is the most noteworthy part of the conversation.

    Actually, I don't think that's noteworthy at all. Everyone knows that chassidim don't get a general education. And in any case, Israelis in general, whether charedi or secular, are very ignorant about zoology.

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  12. he places himself next to an "uneducated charedi" to make him self look good

    Actually, the point of this post was to show that his questions were extremely perceptive. I guess you have an inferiority complex.

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  13. At first I thought the picture you provided was that of the chassidic rebbe.

    I guess they must share a common ancestor.

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  14. That is a photo of a chassidic rebbe, the Vedzh-Vooder Rebbe. :D

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  15. It oddly reminds of a story my Dad used to tell me of a Haredi friend who simply refused to believe that Pygmy tribes existed because it wasn't in Torah. He just couldn't grasp it.

    The ignorance, whether from a frummer or freier, is depressing though, to me personally anyway. it's not a surprise that sometimes these eureka moments lead to ruptures in Haredi communities.

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  16. The first thing that comes to my mind is `How many other rebbe`im have similar questions ? How many have their interest piqued by a simple yet deep query ? My guess is that many of them do, and they`re not a whole lot different than many of us here.

    The moment researchers look for is not ` Eureka !`,but ` Hmm,that`s odd.`

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  17. I believe a little fact-checking is in order here:

    "The Rebbe was intrigued: were there not lions in every country in the world? I informed him that no, lions only ever existed in certain countries. Each species of animal is restricted to different regions....
    ...And because animals emerged from common ancestors, they are often restricted to the locations of those ancestors.


    Lions are only found in limited locations today due to increasing human habitation. Not due to the location of their ancestors.

    And aren't very close members of the lion family like cougars, panthers, pumas, and other types of mountain lions found all over the world?

    Wikipedia similarly contradicts Rabbi Slifkin's zoological evidence for common ancestry:

    Until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. They were found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru.[5]

    So how exactly does the localization of one small sub-species of lion support the theory of common descent?

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  18. The "tree of life" diagram at the bottom is fascinating - if a bit disorienting.

    And nice photo of the "Galapagotchover Rebbe"!

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  19. do we share a common ancestor with the hassidic rebbe..oy

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  20. "Only the lion lives in large family groups, being able to subdue its aggression. And thus it epitomizes gevurah, as the Mishnah says: Who is mighty? He that conquers his inclination."

    --- This paints a bit too idyllic a picture of lion family life. Lion domestic life is dangerous and violent, especially at times when a new dominant male takes over a pride. There is no gevurah of withholding the lion's inclination going on there - see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion and many other resources that explain.

    --- As for cats, they are perfectly domesticated, and make excellent companion animals for all mankind, including religious Jews, and even Chassidic Rebbes.

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  21. >>>
    Gd was a good programmer and used encapsulation and object oriented design along with polymorphism.
    >>>

    I think it's more likely that programmers looked at the natural world and thought (without exactly thinking it):

    . . . What kinds of structure can we find here to use in our software?

    But I _do_ appreciate the joke (as an old, old programmer).

    The diagram -- _that_ is magnificent! It's 3 billion years of history in a nutshell. Thank you, R. Slifkin!

    Charles

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  22. Ameteur - I must have missed the sedra where UML diagrams are discussed. Can you please direct me to the parsha it's in?

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  23. I've read before, somewhere in classical mussar literature, that we should learn something from each of Hashem's creations. Rabbi Lazer Brody had a video series on this topic a while back, I believe.

    Although lions do live in groups, male lions in particular have some pretty disturbing--from a human perspective--behaviors. I believe they kill and eat the children of other males. If the child is not theirs, they try to kill it! In human society, stepfathers are many, many more times likely to abuse their stepchildren than are biological parents.

    Perhaps one thing we can learn from the example of the lion that we should have compassion on all children, and not just our own.

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  24. "or you can note that grown man with an intellectual curiosity about the subject is utterly clueless about the basics of 5th grade biology."

    There seems to be in implication that you think that 5th grade biology is important. I'm not saying it's not, but I can think of a lot of fields in science that you and I are probably quite ignorant about, yet can be considered important. What's more important for one person might be less important for another.

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  25. "ploni said...
    Ameteur - I must have missed the sedra where UML diagrams are discussed. Can you please direct me to the parsha it's in?"

    Good question.
    I guess you can find it in Bereshit when it says that each was "created according to it's kind"

    Of course you can also find emergent behavior process in Bereshit as well when it says, "the seeds had not sprouted for there was no rain" , or perhaps when Gd separated Adam and Chava.

    The Chumash, like the world around us, does not give us much information one way or the other. And why should it? Both methods of creation are useful.

    The point is, you need more than common building blocks to determine if something is emergent (common ancestor) or UML (individual creations)


    "I think it's more likely that programmers looked at the natural world and thought (without exactly thinking it):

    . . . What kinds of structure can we find here to use in our software?"

    It's more complicated than that, but yes that's also true. Knowledge of evolution most certainly contributed to emergent programming, but so did the limitations of Object Oriented style programming itself. But evolution based programming isn't a good solution for all situations.

    Again, the main point here is that knowing what something is made out of itself, does not give you enough information to know how it was made.

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  26. Amateur: It's not just a matter of "common building blocks." It is the fact that the building blocks are restricted to certain lines. There are no mammalian building blocks used in birds, or vice-versa. Such a nested hierarchy is a feature of familial systems involving descent, not manufactured systems.

    Furthermore, a completely different set of building blocks is sometimes used for the same purpose (contrary to your claim that a single divine Creator would not have various different ideas of how to go about things), even though it involves limitations. Some large aquatic creatures are made from fish building blocks, while others (whales) are made from mammal building blocks, even though this has the drawback that they cannot breath underwater.

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  27. " Evolutionist said...
    Amateur: It's not just a matter of "common building blocks." It is the fact that the building blocks are restricted to certain lines. There are no mammalian building blocks used in birds, or vice-versa. Such a nested hierarchy is a feature of familial systems involving descent, not manufactured systems."

    I'm entirely sure that is 100% not true.

    All sorts of bits are used in both birds and mammals. (like the lack of cell walls, or the process of using oxygen, and the whole RNA/ DNA process) And then there is the Platypus which mixes things up a bit.

    The problem here is that you are defining, post production, what is a "mammal" bit, and what is a "bird bit" or a "fish part"

    Whales are built using Fish parts. You say they have mammal parts, but that could just be because you have wrongly labeled what belongs to a mammal exclusively, or made the category too large or too small.

    Rather the only reason we can declare "common descent" is because we also have the mechanisms of mutations and the process of speciation. Without those, "common descent" doesn't exist.

    Also, I would hardly call lungs or gills "building blocks", building blocks to me is AT/CG, or more accurately: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/AP_Biology/The_Chemical_Building_Blocks_of_Life

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  28. "As for cats, they are perfectly domesticated"

    Never had a cat bring you a dead bird? Take a cat out of a house (and sometimes not even that), and they become mini-lions very quickly.

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  29. I wouldn't hang my hat on this "nested hierarchy" idea. See the study, "Gene tree discordance, phylogenetic inference and the multispecies coalescent", which says:
    "Many of the first studies to examine the conflicting signal of different genes have found considerable discordance across gene trees: studies of hominids, pines, cichlids, finches, grasshoppers and fruit flies have all detected genealogical discordance so widespread that no single tree topology predominates." http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169534709000846

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  30. I certainly accept the premises of evolution, however Ameteur does in fact raise some important logical missteps taken by its adherents. And the point about not knowing how something came to be just by looking at the result is important. I would like to see this subject hashed out further.

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  31. All sorts of bits are used in both birds and mammals.

    Only bits that are common to all vertebrates.

    And then there is the Platypus which mixes things up a bit.

    No, it doesn't. Which bird features does it have?

    Whales are built using Fish parts

    No, they are not!

    You don't seem to know anything about biology. Maybe you shouldn't weigh in with your views on this topic until you have studied it.

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  32. "Whales are built using Fish parts

    No, they are not!

    You don't seem to know anything about biology. Maybe you shouldn't weigh in with your views on this topic until you have studied it."

    I know plenty about biology, and I also know that whales have fins.

    You want to claim that fins are not a fish parts. Fine, but realize that it is arguable.

    Regarding the Platypus. A draft version of the platypus genome sequence was published in Nature on 8 May 2008, revealing both reptilian and mammalian elements, as well as two genes found previously only in birds, amphibians, and fish. (wikipedia)

    Sure you can argue that now that those genes were found in the platypus that they are no longer bird or fish genes and now they are mammal genes... but the platypus is the only known mammal to have those genes.

    There are other interesting findings from the sequencing of the platypus genome, and the result is that you retro fit the "nested heiarachy" to fit these new findings, rather than look for other ways of explaning the evolution. Which is fine once you have already assumed common descent and a nested hierarchy, but is not fine if you are trying to argue that common descent all alone is self evident (without the other mechanisms in place)

    I am in no way arguing that evolution isn't true. I'm only saying that common descent alone is not self evident without the other baggage of evolution.

    Takamas thank you for that link, it is very interesting.

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  33. You want to claim that fins are not a fish parts. Fine, but realize that it is arguable

    No, it's not. That's the whole point - they perform the same function, and are superficially similar, but are anatomically completely different.

    A draft version of the platypus genome sequence was published in Nature on 8 May 2008, revealing both reptilian and mammalian elements, as well as two genes found previously only in birds, amphibians, and fish. (wikipedia)

    Exactly. So they are not bird parts; they are vertebrate parts.

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  34. This is a waste of time. Nobody has ever convinced someone religiously opposed to evolution of its scientific merits. And there's certainly no point in having arguments with post-modernist ideologues who believe that things mean whatever you want them to mean.

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  35. "Nobody has ever convinced someone religiously opposed to evolution of its scientific merits."
    I think that's unfair, as I'm not religiously opposed to it, but I find more scientific problems with (parts of) it than you do.

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  36. This Rebbe is an anomaly. The rebbes that I know have heard of the evolution and make fun of it. I don't believe that Satmar, Bobov or Skulen rebbes expect to find a lion in NY state or in Hungary, or Romania. They are well aware of the rudimentary idea that different animals live in different climates. I mean, who's ever seen a giraffe in Europe?

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  37. "This is a waste of time. Nobody has ever convinced someone religiously opposed to evolution of its scientific merits. And there's certainly no point in having arguments with post-modernist ideologues who believe that things mean whatever you want them to mean."

    You know, the only thing that is a waste of time, is declaring something a waste of time.

    Firstly, you should know that there is a difference between scientific fact and scientific narrative. And most importnatly, there is a difference between the use of post modernism in LITERATURE, and any other application of the idea.

    Just like you would roll your eyes at somebody who uses Evolution to argue for some philosophical idea of "social darwinism", the opposite it also true.

    I roll my eyes at anyone who uses post Modernist ideas to relate to science, or anything outside of literature. And as an aside, it is not true that things can mean whatever you want them to mean. But they can mean whatever they inspire to mean. Two very different things. Which really has no place in this conversation, and there was really no reason to bring it up at all, other than as some sort of ad hominem attack. Which is really, quite frankly, ridiculous thing to do.

    Secondly, please point out who you are referring to about religiously opposing evolution. I don't see any of that in this conversation. As far as I can tell, everybody in this conversation recognizes the scientific fact of a process of evolution. That is not in doubt.

    "Exactly. So they are not bird parts; they are vertebrate parts."

    Let's be clear here. They are NOT vertebrate parts. These genes do NOT express themselves in reptiles.

    Let's also be clear, that prior to the Platypus, no known mammal has these genes.

    It's really a mockery of the scientific process to suggest that that these genes are generalist vertebrate genes.

    As for things like dorsal fins and flukes, superficially they look the same, if you dig down deep enough, they look different, but if you look down even deeper, they look the same again. Where you draw the line is a judgement call, and how you define what category of parts it belongs to is the very nature of how you define "common descent". You want to say that outer appearances are just superficial. One can just as easily claim that the bone and muscle structure is superficial. Another can claim that cell structure is superficial. Again on the molecular structure, atomic structure, or sub-atomic structure. It is not unreasonable to declare a certain type of animal purely on the basis of if it has a dorsal fin or not, or even to declare a dorsal fin a "part".

    The question of how to categorize animals is really a question of what purpose you have in the categorization. Common descent, is itself a purpose in categorization. We want to map and see how one animal evolved from the other. That means, that if we find something that breaks the pattern we don't reject common descent. Instead, we redo the mapping for everything.

    If a new theory is proven, say for example, the idea that there are multiple starting points from which life evolved, then we will remap everything to show which of the multiple life genesis points each animal belongs to, because in our new theory of polygensis that will be the most useful sort of mapping.

    And I would caution against believing that such a thing can't happen, because that is exactly what happened in Astronomy and Physics.

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  38. Natan -- I seem to remember reading many years ago that the last lion in Israel was killed as late as the C19 -- 1838 seems to stick in my mind....

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  39. Anonymous: "Common descent, is itself a purpose in categorization".

    No it's not. It's a conclusion based on the evidence including (but not limited to) the unambiguous nested Hierarchies of traits found in all living things.

    As an example, the fact that whales are anatomically closer to humans than fish, is easily explained as a result of the more recent common ancestry of whales/humans than whales/fish.
    The fact is that there are many examples of two sets of species doing the same thing (swim, fly, see) in very different ways-- using mechanisms that are much more anatomically or genetically similar to mechanisms that do other things for other species.

    And the fact is that when we observe a new species, and we find that it has a particular mechanism for doing something (modified forelimbs for swimming), we can successfully predict what other mechanisms it will have for doing other things (blowholes to breath air, mamary glands for females to nurse young, are warm blooded, have body hair).

    "the idea that there are multiple starting points from which life evolved" provides no insights into these basic facts of biology.

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  40. Oh come on, every programmer knows that G-d wrote in lisp! (And if you didn't there is a song by Julia Eklar to prove it, you can find it on youtube)

    In terms of structure I think a better example is wings. The wings of Bird and the Wings of a bat have very different bone structure and have no common ancestry. Whatever the most recent common ancestor of birds and mammals was did not have wings.

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  41. I suspect that if common ancestry could be evaluated by itself, without any connection to the mechanisms of evolution

    That would be sort of like trying to study things falling without any connection the mechanism of gravity. Evolution is the mechanism of common ancestry

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  42. i know this is an old thread, but here's a fascinating plot of "national income" vs "belief in evolution".

    Israel isn't on it, but the US is -- and it's an outlier!

    http://www.calamitiesofnature.com/archive/?c=559

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  43. "Israel isn't on it, but the US is -- and it's an outlier!

    http://www.calamitiesofnature.com/archive/?c=559"

    I've got to admit, besides the US being an outlier, it looks like Geography has more of an impact on GDP than belief in evolution does. In fact, Hungary and the Netherlands have the same belief in evolution and wildly divergent GDP. While Turkey and Romania have pretty much the same GDP, but wildly divergent belief in evolution.

    Cute graphic though.

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  44. Nachum said... -- "As for cats, they are perfectly domesticated" -- Never had a cat bring you a dead bird? Take a cat out of a house (and sometimes not even that), and they become mini-lions very quickly.

    -- As soon as I uploaded my comment I had a feeling I'd get flack about that. I should not have written that they are "perfectly" domesticated, I was myself being "a bit too idyllic."

    Nevertheless cats do make good pets and companions, as do dogs and an assortment of other animals. For the most part their "gevurah" is harnessed and focused through domestication to trying to please us, also imperfect, humans.

    BTW, as you write, most of the time the birds that my cats catch do not survive, however as has happened a number of times before, and as happened again this morning, one of my cats brought in a bird, but thankfully I was able to take it out of her jaws, with minimal injury, and release outside to fly away.

    May we all merit to escape any ambush and attack that we encounter from any kind of animal, including the most dangerous animal of all, mankind.

    Gemar Chasima Tova to everyone.

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  45. sorry, not posting any more cat comments!

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  46. “I suspect that if common ancestry could be evaluated by itself, without any connection to the mechanisms of evolution, the evolution of man, and without any connection to godless atheists, a lot more people would be able to accept it.”

    Well said!



    I am inclined here to what ameteur and others are saying that the similarities point at “unity” or “commonality” which can be due to common descent or just as easily to common design i.e. a Single Designer. IIRC r brown in ‘mysteries of the creation’ talks about coming across the ruins of a factory. When they realize which company ran the factory they can predict the design of the artifacts that they will soon dig up, based on products that the company currently markets in its functioning factories. There’s an expectation of similarity because of the single company. [Actually, I may be way off about r brown's details, but that is the idea as I remember it.]

    [I think you once interpreted the pentadactyl limb as a manifestation of the mystical concept of the number five, a spread of 4 centering on a fifth, as Maharal on Avos 3:7? [which deals with the Shechinah visiting 5 who learn together]. I believe there’s an important difference between using the mystical approach to interpret texts and using it to interpret nature. In [apparently straightforward] texts the precedent of the Rishonim is generally without mysticism; if they worked without mysticism so their predecessors, Chazal, likely also did not. But when interpreting nature, i.e. “reading the mind” of the Creator, if the interpretation seems intellectually appealing and sound, why should we hesitate to say something that wasn’t said before? Our interpretation would only be speculative, but the fact of commonality itself indicates a common root, i.e., a single Creator.]

    Another issue is the gemara Sanhedrin 39a where the Amgosh [a binity-believing Zoroastrian?] tells Ameimar that two gods made the human body, one the top half and the other the bottom half…. The unity of design of the cells and tissues and pentadactyl limbs and... of both halves of the body weakens the Amgosh’es claim. A polytheist who thinks dogs and cats were created by different gods isn’t paying attention to their similarities. Likewise, the similarity of two fundamental life-molecules, hemoglobin and chlorophyll, points at the unity of the plant and animal kingdoms. The Designer perhaps chose to use a single design to negate the claims of polytheists.

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  47. “Why are certain animals very similar to each other and very different from other animals? Why do lions and tigers and leopards and jaguars all resemble each other in various ways, while dogs and wolves and foxes and jackals all share DIFFERENT [emphasis added] similarities?”

    Tucked into this sentence is the dissimilarity between canines and felines, which points to separate creation.

    For the sake of humor, and utter disregard of the fossil column, I postulate separate creation with species wildly divergent of one another, with the Creator endowing nature with a mechanism that over the eons caused a gradual blending of materials and structures etc.; so the dissimilarities between the species have been here from the start, and the similarities came later. What a marvelous mechanism that would be, and it would be yet another reason to admire the Creator.

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  48. “or you can note that grown man with an intellectual curiosity about the subject is utterly clueless about the basics of 5th grade biology. That to me is the most noteworthy part of the conversation.

    “Actually, I don't think that's noteworthy at all. Everyone knows that chassidim don't get a general education. And in any case, Israelis in general, whether charedi or secular, are very ignorant about zoology.”


    IIUC one aspect of knowledge [in general, or of a particular branch of knowledge] –whether sacred or profane- is that it is a form of pleasure whose value, and the value of the efforts invested into it, can be challenged when one encounters someone without it.

    As an aside, “Sherlock Holmes” had neither any idea nor any interest in what the planets are or how many they are, in the beginning of “A Study in Scarlet”. What a loser, like this Rebbe.... ;)

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  49. "This is a waste of time. Nobody has ever convinced someone religiously opposed to evolution of its scientific merits."

    It's very rare, but once upon a time I was someone religiously opposed to evolution yet I was eventually convinced of its scientific merits. It took me long amounts time dedicated to argumentation, but slowly I came to realize the case for common ancestry was indeed convincing. Of course, no one admits they were wrong on the internet - so whenever it does happen, you probably won't see it.

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  50. regarding MALE NIPPLES they also weigh against the amgosh’es claim. this comes to mind now because IIUC the DAF recently provided an additional explanation for male nipples.

    but first recall rambam’s statement that a palace might be built and stand for many years only because a tzadik would once in all those years need its shade. anyway, daf 53b tells of the baby whose mother died and his father miraculously nursed him. The words of the story are ונפתחו לו דדין כשני דדי אשה. I don’t know if that is to mean that they enlarged and functioned like a female’s or they only functioned like a female’s but retained the male size. [our science teacher told us that today men can nurse if they take a certain drug – I haven’t researched if he is correct.] comes maharsha and asks but אין חדש תחת השמש? answers maharsha that it isn’t חדש since men were created with nipples – so in some form this miracle hails back to creation.

    now to take this a step further, this person who was judged deserving of a miracle, almost got stuck with אין חדש תחת השמש . so for his sake all men, and in the interest of unity that I mentioned in a previous comment – all male mammals, have nipples. This is like the palace built for only one person.

    However, one might argue that as the gemara says this person was גרוע it’s unlikely that all creation was adjusted just for him. But that isn’t very clear-cut. See maharsha there and glosses of yaavatz that since there was a miracle there was certainly an element of זכות by which the miracle was a deserved one. That deservedness IMHO might have had a global effect. remember also that creation requires no ‘effort’.

    [“male nipples” is a bit more thoroughly dealt with at 2010/09expert-in-science, But due to the participation there of הרופא הידוע i have no interest in revisiting there or sending anyone there, so i’m commenting here.]

    [the top tos. on 55b gave me déjà vu, as it was discussed in this forum not long ago.]

    Kt

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  51. after writing the previous comment, i recalled that according to the midrash as cited by the mefarshim on the daf, mordechai nursed esther. tos. yeshanim assumes that mordechai certainly wasn’t גרוע. esther grew up to save the chosen nation. but if not for male nipples she might have died due to אין חדש תחת השמש. so the anonymous man in the gemara is גרוע and certainly not famous, and one might argue that he isn’t important enough to cause a modification of all creation. but esther’s survival was crucial to our survival and perhaps a good enough reason for male nipples.

    kt

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