Monday, December 19, 2011

Rabbi Averick and the origin of life

Rabbi Moshe Averick writes a very right-wing, creationist opinion column for an on-line magazine for right-wing Jews (there are some) called The algeminer. His recent article featured a slam on Prof. Jerry Coyne's blog "Why Evolution is True," particularly Coyne's critique of creationist David Berlinski. There is some fun to be had reading the comments following the Rabbi's article, particularly amusing is that Terri-Lynn McCormick, personally takes Averick to task for misrepresenting her husband, Noble Laureate Jack Szostak.

There are a number of factual, and logical errors in Rabbi Averick's opinion piece. His aversion to science makes me hesitate about dealing with the factual errors. So, for the moment, let's consider just the statement that, "... there are only two possibilities. An unguided naturalistic process or a creator who is outside of the physical universe. There are no other options."

First, the existence of life resulting from, "An unguided naturalistic process," does not exclude the existence of a supernatural creator. One can just as easily posit a creator who wove into the creation the capacity, even inevitability, of life from the moment of creation. Similarly, the Earth could conceivably have been seeded with life, which ID creationists regularly trot out as an example of "non-religious ID." (I am glad that Rabbi Averick has at least acknowledged that this is a mere rhetorical figment to avoid the US Constitution). But, even the various formulations of 'panspermia' ideas could be interpreted so as not to conflict with the existence of a supreme creator somewhere.

So, since the Rabbi is obviously wrong that there are just his two possibilities, what does this leave of his next argument that, "If we conclude that the first living organism could only emerge through intelligent intervention, that itself is the evidence of the supernatural creator." Well, there is really nothing left of it. If the natural origin of life cannot dispose of the existence of a creator, then he must actually demonstrate the physical effects, and some mechanism of detection of these miracles. No mere critique (or denial of evidence) of abiogenesis is competent to "prove," or "disprove" the existence of god(s).

If we only look at the claim that if no natural source of first life is possible, then there are gods, I see even more problems. The first is that a negative argument can never be proven. What possible evidence could there be that the natural origin of life is impossible. We can accept, in the absence of direct evidence, that life is very improbable, but this is not ever resolvable to "impossible." Creationist guru William Dembski tries to invent a statistic he calls the "cosmic probability bound" A similar idea is found in the writing of William Craig Lane, but without Dembski's pseudo-mathematic flourishes. The notion is that the physical universe is finite, and so there must be some external infinity that contains it. Creationists posit god(s), but in a similar sense, the super string theorists posit infinite universes.

Rabbi Averick claims that his work is done just by misrepresenting the positions of several scientists, and saying that since they have not created life in the last few decades his particular deity has been validated. And this is the last, and more severe of Rabbi's errors. If he rejects the natural, he has not advanced the existence, or acceptance of his favorite mysticism. The entire effort is wasted. There are hundreds, if not thousands of godlings with followers happy to claim credit for the creation of the universe, and life. The Rabbi, even ignoring his errors and omissions, will still need to contend with them. Unless, his only goal is to damp down the unease of his co-religionists. The simple creationist literalism he proposes is terribly vulnerable to science; the universe is billions of years old; the Earth is billion of years old; the universe, Earth, etc were not created in 6 days; there was no global flood. Without a congregation, Rabbis need to find new jobs. I personally find it better to improve my understanding of scripture, and dismiss trivial literalism.

(So far, the Rabbi has blocked my comment)

I was apparently too late to the party.

As an experiment, I tried to post a link today to the Rabbi's most recent piece of E-crap. That has not appeared either.

For another exposure of Rabbi Averick's lies, see Faye Flam's excellent piece.


RBH said...

I left a comment, too, referring readers to the Quote Mine Project. We'll see if it gets past moderation.

Gary S. Hurd said...

Howdy RBH,

I doubt it. The Rabbi seems to only allow a few negative comments from some select few people.


RBH said...

Well, we'll see. I've echoed your link to Averik on PT, but got an error when I sent a trackback, so I put your URL in the body of the post.


Gary S. Hurd said...

That spiked about 20 hits pronto. HEH HEH

In my reply, I am on the vague edge of a solid argument contra-creationism.

I have the tail of the "All cocker spaniels are brown dogs, but not all brown dogs are cocker spaniels." Then creationist OOL claim is, if the origin of life cannot be "natural" then God.

But, in fact, an apparently totally "natural" OOL could still allow the existence of god(s). A natural OOL could reject, or accept god(s) for some values of "accept" and of "god(s)." So the duality argument has failed logically. But, it lacks the emotional component; the Ah Ha! moment. It easily eliminates stupid perversions like young earth creationism, but that should hardly be necessary at this point.

moshedavid said...

Just a couple of points of information: I've been in touch with Faye Flam and hopefully she will post my response to the ridiculous accusation that I tried to make Jack Szostak out to be a supporter of ID theory. Cmon guys, there is enough to attack me on without manufacturing nonsensical charges.

Second: I have no control at all over what comments are posted on my articles. That is done by the owner of the site and I have no input at all into those matters.

Cheers to all: Rabbi Moshe Averick