Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
הרב יוסף גבריאל בקהופר
I think that this subject is sensitive enough to require precision in language.After all, is your mind really boggled by "how anyone can see this kind of stuff and attribute it to evolution"? Or to someone use evolution to attribute it to something other than Hashem Yisbarakh?In other words, would someone attributing such mind control on the part of parasites to a Divinely Guided evolution also boggle your mind?-micha
I guess guided evolution is a remote possibility, but the systems are so complex it seems that they must have worked perfectly from the get go.
Yes, guided evolution would be a greater example of Nifla'os haBorei than His just "poofing" it there.It's an ironic twist in the usual maximalist-minimalist debate. The ones who tend to minimalize the role of the incredible in their religion are actually proposing the more incredible claim. But it does save them from denying secular authority.(It seems that acceptance vs confrontation with secular authority has more to do with our communal splits than the secular itself. Just ask the doctors at Ein Kerem...)-micha
Actually, scientists in many different fields (evolutionary biology, computational biology, physics, mathematics) have shown both theoretically, experimentally and through computer simulation how complex systems can develop and evolve, without needing the design or controlling hand of a Creator. Even if the details of the development of a particular system are not fully understood, it is incredibly small-minded to throw one's hands up and exclaim, "Well, since I don't understand this at this moment in time, it must be Divine!"This does not diminish from the ma'asim and nifle'ot of the Creator -- in my mind it strengthens them. A clever engineer designs a system that designs a more complicated system, rather than micromanaging the whole thing. And, after all, this complicated, self-contained, evolving system was, is, and will be continually maintained and created by Him.בשעה שיתבונן האדם במעשיו וברואיו הנפלאים הגדולים, ויראה מהם חכמתו שאין לה ערך ולא קץ--מיד הוא אוהב ומשבח ומפאר ומתאווה תאווה גדולה לידע השם הגדול.משנה תורה להרמב"ם, הלכות יסודי התורה ב:א
Sorry, Eli. You're going to have to do a lot better than asserting that the models exist in some abstract formula to convince me that without intense Divine involvement such nifla'os could happen in practice!
First of all, I did say theoretically, experimentally and computationally. And I'm not just asserting. If you'd like references, here's a start:The evolutionary origin of complex featuresI suggest reading that paper, a few of the ones they cite, and a few of the papers that cite it. Email me if you'd like a copy. There are countless other articles on this issue, approaching these topics from other directions. I am sure you can find them.Secondly, the models are not "an abstract formula." They are attempts to explain existing data with the ability to make testable predictions. Perhaps you are also mind-boggled by the complexity of the solar system? You know, all those planets flying around in circles held by invisible forces, and so on? Are you not swayed by the "abstract formulas" which govern astronomical movement?You do, of course, realize that your position can be summarized, "I do not understand this (and, of course, have not spent any effort on trying to understand this), therefore the only reasonable explanation is the Easter Bunny and his Magical Robot Beans."What will happen to your appreciation of God's creation when science does eventually work out the complete picture?What boggles my mind is how we've let crazy, right-wing Christian lunacy dictate Torah values.
One can marvel at the Chochma of Hashem without using the phenominon to prove or disprove evolution. No matter how Hashem created the world, He used His Chochma and in cases like these, it is easy to marvel at it.
Rabbi--why is there any reason to object to evolution from a religious point of view? Put differently, why would a religious person who believes that HKB"H created the physical world and everything be bothered by evolution? We start from the point of view that HKB"H is behind everything, so scientific explanations of anything in the physical world just show us a part of His bria that the human mind can comprehend. I am aware that the evolution vs. creation "debate" is an issue in the larger society, but why should it involve or interest a believing Jew?
Evolution is indeed not an issue. The Malbim seems to have held that Evolution is compatible with the developments of Yemei Bereishis. Generally speaking, it's the Age of the Universe which is more of an issue. People tend to conflate the two.But whereas for the A of the U there is ample evidence of an "old" universe, there exists no such evidence for evolution. Computer modeling is certainly insufficient and irrelevant. So belief in Evolution WITHOUT A DIRECTING DIVINITY is just plain stupid. One might as well believe in the Greek gods, they have more credibility!
But since there cannot be any randomness in Hashem's perspective, then "random" evolution would not be random for a believer regardless. Therefore both a divine-directing and a "random" evolution are both by definition Divine directed for a believer.
You, once again, clearly demonstrate your lack of understanding. The expanding, couple-billion year old universe etc. explains a vast amount of empirical data, and has been tremendously successful at predicting things which have later been verified.The fossil record (radiocarbon dating included), enormous complexity of life, etc. is explained by theories of evolution. The biggest difficulty with such theories is testing their hypotheses and predictions directly. While there are experiments which have been done to test certain predictions, these are time-consuming and very difficult, tricky and expensive to do. Computer models are therefore certainly not irrelevant. They allow a rapid testing of a robust system. The beauty of evolutionary theory is that it can be modeled pretty well on a computer, and, as such, predictions can thus be tested. Whether this is sufficient, well, that's the one claim you've made that's up to some debate. However, the other experimental evidence still stands.I'm sorry to keep harping on this, but as a scientist and a frum Jew it pains me to see Torah scholars making claims that are patently wrong. If something is in an area outside of your expertise, make it your business to study it carefully so you know what you're talking about -- or just don't talk about it -- lest you sound "plain stupid." חכמים, היזהרו בדבריכם--שמא תחובו חובת גלות, ותגלו למקום המים הרעים, וישתו התלמידים הבאים אחריכם וימותו, ונמצא שם שמיים מתחלל.
In principle, can any of us have expertise about the world-under-construction as it existed before the creation was completed and implemented? I se no way that the existence of theories, models, or computers can get around this.
On the other hand, I don't consider revealed knowledge about that period to fall under "expertise". We can be able receive such knowledge as our Creator deems appropriate.
Some of you are missing the major point. Religiously there is no objection to evolution in principle: G-d may create instantaneously or evolutionary. Once you bring in G-d, however, the theory of "origin of the species" becomes totally redundant: It is still G-d the Creator.Whatever objections there would be to evolution are mainly philosophical/logical. This type of convoluted thinking would be rejected in any other field, and is "popular" only because it allegedly is "able" to exclude Divine creation.One of my major objections to it is simply the relatively small time alloted to it (let's give the species 1000 trillion years; in consideration of retro infinity of time - the human species should have been around more than a trillion to the trillionst power of years ago - for in that infinity all possible conditions to allow it have already existed trillions of times).
Aryeh Dov,You are right that there is no religious objection to evolution. Just as there is no religious objection to quantum mechanics or our understanding of the Krebs cycle.The so-called philosophical and logical objection of "convoluted thinking" you raise is a non-issue. Evolution is one of the simplest, most elegant scientific theories that exists. Your allegation of conspiracy against Divinity is unfounded. Furthermore, there are plenty of other theories which clearly exclude the possibility of Divine control which are not accepted by the "scientific community" as reasonable science even though they discount God. In fact, science, by its very nature, is atheistic -- in the sense that God does have a role to play in any scientific theory. This does not mean that all scientists are atheists -- that is absolutely not the case, including amongst evolutionary biologists -- just that their theories can not rely on the existence of, or control by God.You then mention your major objection: the seeming unprobablisty of live evolving in the few billion years the Earth has existed. (At least that's what I think you mean, I have no idea what you meant to say in your parenthetical statement.) This suggests to me that you have not actually researched this yourself, but taken some sefer on this topic at face value.The issue of time-scale of evolution is absolutely one of the biggest problems still outstanding in evolutionary theory. It is also closely related to the problem of punctuated equilibrium as apparent in the fossil record. This is, of course, is why these currently are the most active areas of research. I know of a few approaches to explaining these issues (I believe a paper on one of these approaches is forthcoming in Nature). Given a few more years this problem will likely be resolved.
"Given a few more years this problem will likely be resolved."This sentence summarizes all my points....and I need not add anything more! "Resolved" to whom? Obviously to those who believe that that the unresolvable will definitely be resolved for there are no limits to human ingenuity. Like carbon-14, no doubt a reliable measurement --- providing (and that of course is the BIG IF...) that everything is equal in every respect to the conditions in whih we see it work etc. etc. The logical stumbling-block is in even thinking and considering that you can find answers to mah lefanim umah le'achor, when these are logical absurdities. In plain English, human arrogance which stands in the way of truth (see Emunot Vedeot, Intro and Moreh I:31). Veda"l (and if it is not "veda" - it is because it is not "l").
Aryeh Dov,It seems your beef is with science in general, not just evolution. Do you have issues with Newtonian physics? Einsteinian relativity? Quantum mechanics? Ultimately, science is not about discovering Truth, with a capital T. It is simply about explaining the mechanisms and mechanics of the world we live in.If you treat all science with equal disdain, then of course evolutionary theory is religiously irrelevant. And if that's your approach, I can accept that (although I disagree with it). You are in good company (Ramban, among many others) in that regard .However, then just as you are suspicious of radiocarbon dating, you should be ready to swim every time you drive over a bridge. And you should have a fire extinguisher ready every time you drive. And you should not trust that the fire extinguisher will put out the fire. In fact, you should not trust that swimming would work or that fires can even be extinguished. ואם כן, אין לדבר סוףPersonally, I prefer the approach of the Rambam, who appreciates the religious power of studying science. As I quoted in an earlier comment,והיאך היא הדרך לאהבתו, ויראתו: בשעה שיתבונן האדם במעשיו וברואיו הנפלאים הגדולים, ויראה מהם חכמתו שאין לה ערך ולא קץ--מיד הוא אוהב ומשבח ומפאר ומתאווה תאווה גדולה לידע השם הגדול...וכשמחשב בדברים האלו עצמן, מיד הוא נרתע לאחוריו, ויירא ויפחד ויידע שהוא בריה קטנה שפלה אפלה, עומד בדעת קלה מעוטה לפני תמים דעות...הלכות יסודי התורה ב:א
Eli: Obviously I have more confidence in science and logic than you do. With your sardonic "response" you demonstrated that you have no clue about what I wrote, failing altogether to understand the basic premises underlying the relevant issues on both sides of the argument, and think that silly sarcasm and empty phrases may mask your ignorance. "Name-dropping" by citing a Rambam which is altogether irrelevant to what we are talking about (unless, more likely, you simply do not realize that at best your quotation is committing the fallacy of petitio principii by falsely taking for granted that your alleged claims are the ma'asav ... hanifla'im etc.) is no more than a feeble attempt at another fallacy, i.e., argumentum ad verecundiam.If and when you will pay serious attention to the issues and their implications, maybe we can then have a reasonable discussion.
Aryeh Dov,I generally avoid responding to ad hominem attacks (see, I can use Latin phrases, too), but I'll respond to this one. First of all, science and logic are not the same thing. Science (generally) does not make logically rigorous arguments. Mathematics does, but that's not what we've been discussing. And while there is no shortage of math-based, rigorous scientific proofs, they are based on assumptions that one might disagree with.I do not believe the Rambam was making a circular argument (in this case). At the point of that quotation he already assumes that you believe in God. However, the appreciation of the wonders of creation is not dependent on such a belief. I would list a few sources to support this claim, but you might accuse me of "name-dropping" again, so I won't. Nevertheless, once one does believe in God who created the universe, for whatever reason, the text I quoted shows an example of the tremendous religious value in studying said universe.Thus, this Rambam is very relevant to my position, and I did not quote it, as you allege, as empty support for a invalid logical argument. (Or should I assume you quoted him earlier to argue from his authority?) Similarly, I did not reference the Ramban pointlessly.If you reject all of science, I can sincerely accept that. This approach has quite a long history in Jewish thought. Ramban, for example, wrote very strongly about the futility of studying science. My "sardonic silly sarcasm" (you really missed an opportunity for a great alliteration there) was simply to argue for consistency. Science does a fantastic job, even when all the details are not completely understood. The examples I gave were specifically picked for that reason. You can't pick one hot topic to disregard, especially without adequately researching the topic, and happily accept the rest unblinkingly.It is entirely possible that human ingenuity will fail to solve the problems plaguing evolutionary theory. It is also entirely possible that it will fail to solve the outstanding problems in fluid flow, elasticity, etc. That possibility alone, however, is not reason enough to disregard any of it.Perhaps we can have a reasoned discussion, or is it time to invoke Godwin's law?
Eli, it appears that you still don’t get it. Whatever…I generally avoid responding to ad hominem attacks… but I'll respond to this one. ==I assume because I had done so with yours, and will do so again.==First of all, science and logic are not the same thing. Science (generally) does not make logically rigorous arguments. ==Really? Good morning! A scientific theory that is logically implausible carries no weight – and certainly not when it tries to provide an alternative to a plausible premise. (Cf. Rambam’s critique of Aristotle’s ‘eternal universe’)==I do not believe the Rambam was making a circular argument (in this case). ==Not Rambam, but you did. You assumed that your perception of the world is the nifla’ot haBoreh and to that effect cited the Rambam as if ‘your’ perception leads to ahavah veyirah.==I did not quote it, as you allege, as empty support for a invalid logical argument. (Or should I assume you quoted him earlier to argue from his authority?)==Please re-read what I wrote, and keep it in the original context, and that should clarify it for you.== If you reject all of science, I can sincerely accept that.==Does that make sense??? Of course you will accept it the same as you would one who declares the earth to be flat, or that you descend from monkeys, or someone claiming that white is black. So?== This Ramban, for example, wrote very strongly about the futility of studying science.==Dr. Nachmanides MD wrote this? Interesting. Please cite source and context!== My "sardonic silly sarcasm" … was simply to argue for consistency. ==Interesting defense for logical inconsistency.==It is entirely possible that human ingenuity will fail to solve the problems plaguing evolutionary theory. It is also entirely possible that it will fail to solve the outstanding problems in fluid flow, elasticity, etc. That possibility alone, however, is not reason enough to disregard any of it.==And I state categorically that it will not – because it cannot – ever give a proper accounting for the origin of species or age of the world, at the very least for the very reasons Rambam offers in his rejection of Aristotle’s attempt to do so. Hence there is no reason whatsoever for me to give it credibility in the face of an irrefutable mesorah.== is it time to invoke Godwin's law?==It seems to me that you have done so already.==
I'm with Aryeh Dov on this one. Well put!
Actually, from an Algorithmic Information Theory perspective, evolution has major statistical hurdles. I do a hand-wave explanation at my blog entry Aspaqlaria: Argument by Design, ver. 4.0, the titular version 4.0. But then I conclude, Kuzari-style:Which argument is most convincing? Version 4.0, based on math, many models of the cosmology, geology and biology of our origins, but very rigorous, or Rabbi Aqiva’s simple appeal, using a comparison, to show how the point should be self-evident? The ver 1.0, being closest to reducing the claim to a postulate, carries for me the most appeal.Rabbi Aqiva gives us the tools for emunah. Building on that emunah, we can understand it in greater depth, subtlety and beauty using these more formal forms of the argument. But the formality hides the dependence on assumptions from which to reason, not replaces them.-micha