Silly Rabbis, Tricks are For Kids

The library of idiotic and meaningless statements uttered by self-professed holy men keeps endlessly growing. When will we stop being preached to and treated like mindless children?

The Huffington Post featured a so-called A Reasonable Argument for God’s Existence by Rabbi Jacobs. One might expect another round of toned-down religious mush similar to the arguments from what I now call the New-Age Christians. Instead, we get a pseudo-argument bordering on lunacy.

One might suppose that in the six or so decades since the discovery of the DNA molecule by Watson and Crick during which researchers have been investigating the origin of life they might have come up with some pretty solid leads to explain it. The truth of the matter is that we see scientists coming up surprisingly empty-handed and that even within scientific circles, the few hypotheses they do have are shredded to ribbons by their colleagues within the scientific community.

Rabbi Jacobs wants us to think that the discovery of something means that a complete explanation for it should come from science in about sixty years. How long did it take to fully understand the atom after we first discovered it? The truth is that we STILL don’t understand everything about atoms or their origins (although we are getting closer), and that’s okay. Science does not work on a schedule; it doesn’t promise answers to really difficult questions because some man from the Huffington Post demands it. But the hardworking men and women in the field do try very very hard nonetheless.

And that’s the point. We have made so much progress on the understanding of DNA that it’s simply amazing. Just 20 years ago, many people wouldn’t have imagined how far we’ve come in sequencing not only our DNA but those of many other species, and how much closer we are getting to understanding how early life could have developed and evolved. Rabbi Jacobs, on the other hand, makes a living out of giving answers on things that he couldn’t possibly know or understand, and he attacks others for being as ignorant as he is.

There just is no evidence for it. Not one of them has the foggiest notion about how to answer life’s most fundamental question: How did life arise on our planet? The non-believer is thus faced with two choices: to accept as an article of faith that science will eventually arrive at a reasonable, naturalistic conclusion to this intellectual black box or to choose to believe in the vanishingly small odds that the astonishing complexity, intelligence and mystery of life came about as a result of chance, which of course presents its own problems:

It is not an article of faith to be open to the strong possibility that science will answer questions about life’s origins. It may entirely possible that a good explanation is far away, but the evidence is that science, again and again and again, has always pushed the frontiers of our knowledge. Not only has it done that, it has pushed back the claims of the religious and put a well-deserved check on nonsense claims and superstitions.

One of those claims is intelligent design, which Rabbi Jacobs is essentially making. When Jacobs says that the “astonishing complexity, intelligence and mystery of life came about as a result of chance,” I have no choice but to think that either he doesn’t believe in evolution (which I find unlikely) or that he has a typical but serious misconception of it (one that presupposes the driving forces of evolution are random). That’s because if we was talking about abiogenesis, he wouldn’t be referring to “intelligence” or even “complexity,” characteristics more descriptive of modern forms of life.

In short, his O’Reillian argument is this: God exists because I don’t know how shit came about.

The second trickster is Rabbi Artson, who participated in a 4-person debate with Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Rabbi Wolpe.

When asked by Sam Harris about his explanation for why innocent people encounter so much random suffering in this world, Rabbi Artson gives the following response (at 35:20).

It is a Medieval mistake based on Aristotelian thought that God has to be an unmoved mover, and thereby eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. … I apologize for the way that philosophers kidnapped the tradition, but it is not in the Torah, and the concept is a nonsense concept.

[Sam Harris]: So you’re saying that God doesn’t have the power to change these things?

Yes, of course that’s what I’m saying. What God has is a different kind of power than that of the dictator. What I look to God to be is a persuasive power more comparable to a teacher, or a lover, or a parent who teaches and inspires you to be the best by seeing your potential and by giving you the potential to rise to it. But I don’t believe in a God that breaks the rules, who can intervene, and do magic.

God is a weak, powerless entity who just inspires people and can’t perform any miracles? That’s the God of Judaism and Christianity?

Of course, Christopher Hitchens wasn’t going to let this one slide (40:00)

One of the reasons why I like debating with the religious is that you never know what they are going to say next. Sam and I don’t mind being called predictable. We know what we think. We say straight up where we think we know, where we think it is not possible to know, why we don’t think there’s the supernatural, and so on. But this evening already we’ve had your suggestion that God is only really a guru, a friend when you’re in need. I mean he wouldn’t do anything like bugger around with Job to prove a point…

[applause]

If I now tell you that must mean the book wasn’t really the word of God, you would say, “who ever believed that that ever was the word of God?” Let me just tell you something. For hundreds and thousands of years, this kind of discussion would have been in most places impossible to have, or Sam and I would have been having it at the risk of our lives. Religion now comes to us in this smiling face ingratiating way because it has had to give so much ground and because we know so much more. Don’t forget the way it behaved when it was strong and when it really believed that it had God on its side.

Afterwards, Rabbi Artson remarked that he really didn’t like participating in this debate. I don’t know what that is supposed to mean, but the audience really deserved a good debate, and I don’t think they got it. Hitchens and Harris clearly laid out their claims and arguments, while the other side served mush and kept talking about what they didn’t believe, all while changing the story to avoid difficult questions.

The last trickster is Rabbi Schmuley, whose debating style is as bad as his lack of substance. After all, if you don’t have anything worthwhile to say, why not just yell?

Inspiration of the Day: Watch the whole Hitchens, Harris, Rabbi debate. Hitchens makes a Star Wars reference somewhere in there.

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Posted on March 10, 2011, in History, Religion, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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