Friday, December 28, 2007
One of the foundations of evolution is the concept of vestigial organs – meaning organs that have no purpose and therefore represent vestiges of some earlier stage of development.
In “Origin of Species” chapter 13, Charles Darwin calls these “rudimentary organs” and defines them as being either entirely useless or “almost” useless. Ernst Mayr in “What Evolution Is” page 30 to 31 includes vestigial organs as part of the evidence for evolution.
The species about which we know the most is of course our own, so seemingly, according to Darwin, we should be able to find many vestigial organs in our bodies.
After 148 years of searching, however, the results have been a little disappointing.
In 1893, Dr. Robert Wiedersheim, professor at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Germany, published a list of 86 vestigial organs in man. This was eventually expanded to 180. That sounds very impressive, until one realizes that nearly all of these organs have since been found to have important, even vital, functions. For example, Professor Wiedersheim included the pituitary gland and pineal gland in his list.
One of the remaining holdouts was the appendix – until now. Recently a group of scientists discovered that the appendix probably aids people in recovering from an epidemic of sever diarrhea, something not uncommon in poorer communities.
The more we learn, the more evolution fails.
[This information was kindly brought to my attention by one of my readers, Mr. David Fried.]
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:19 PM
Sunday, December 23, 2007
[taking aim at God's enemies; metaphorically of course]
One accusation which is sometimes made about Orthodox Jews is that we are hateful and intolerant. I think there is some truth to this, however the question is: Is this a bad thing?
If someone loves one thing, he naturally hates the opposite. For example, if I love my father, I will hate anyone who attacks my father. If I love my country, I will hate anyone who attacks my country. If I love nature, I will hate corporate executives who are responsible for willfully destroying the environment for a quick profit. Seemingly, the only person truly without hatred is a person without love – someone completely indifferent.
Consider the example of the Netherlands. The Netherlands is certainly one of the most tolerant nations in the world. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Netherlands were more religiously tolerant than perhaps any other country at that time. Today, marijuana and prostitution are legal, as is euthanasia. This sounds idyllic in a way, however there may be a downside to it. During the German occupation of the Netherlands, about 75% of the Jews were killed, with the collaboration of the Dutch administrators and police. To some extent this was a result of Dutch freedom and pluralism.
Judaism demands an absolute love of God, as it states in Deut. 6:5 “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might”. Similarly, Judaism teaches an absolute hatred of the enemies of God, as it states in Psalms 139:21-22 “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate Thee? And do not I strive with those that rise up against Thee? I hate them with utmost hatred; I count them mine enemies.”
Who are those who “hate God”? In Chofetz Chaim 8:5 they are defined as those people who deny the divine origin of the Pentateuch, the legal portion of the Talmud or any part of them. It must be noted however that Maimonides considered the Karaites to be legitimate Jews, in spite of their rejection of the Talmud, because they had lived since birth in this tradition and had been taught nothing else. Most secular Jews today therefore would not be considered enemies of God, if they were raised with no other beliefs.
In other words the enemies of God whom we must hate are those people who deliberately and willfully reject the validity of God's law or any part of it. They are traitors who are guilty of mutiny.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 6:23 PM
Thursday, December 13, 2007
In my humble opinion, the strongest proof of God is the Watchmaker Analogy. The Watchmaker Analogy states that a machine must have an intelligent designer. A device, such as a watch, has many parts which all interact together to efficiently perform a certain function. Therefore obviously a watch must have a maker. There is no other way for it to have gotten here. By the same token, living things are incredibly complex machines and therefore there must exist an incredibly intelligent designer who created them. This is the essence of Intelligent Design Theory.
The only conceivable alternative to IDT is the Infinite Monkey Theorem. IMT basically says that true, under normal circumstances, a watch must have a maker. However IDT breaks down when vast expanses of time and space are involved. IMT suggests that while mixing some minerals into a glass of water and waiting a few days will not produce a watch, however mixing millions of tons of minerals and chemicals into millions of cubic miles of water and waiting millions of years might indeed produce a watch or a computer or a commercial jet plane or even a bacterium.
This is essentially the argument that Richard Dawkins makes in “The Blind Watchmaker” pages 158 to 166. He explains that while the spontaneous origin of life on earth is seemingly miraculous, however that is merely because we are used to thinking in terms of short periods of time and small spaces. But if we assume that billions of potentially habitable planets exist in the universe and each one has existed for billions of years, then life without a creator, or in other words a watch with no watchmaker, becomes very possible. Enough time and space will defeat Watchmaker.
The question is, is this actually true?
As a matter of fact, even if the observable universe were filled with monkeys typing for all time, their total probability to produce a single instance of Hamlet would still be less than one chance in 10^183800. In other words, there is virtually no chance.
What about producing a bacterium by blind chance? Scientists cannot begin to create a bacterium from simple chemicals and even creating a computer simulation of one E. coli has not yet been completed and will be extremely challenging.
I think this makes it clear why atheism is far from scientific. It is an outrageous lie.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 4:35 PM
Thursday, December 06, 2007
We would all like to feel satisfied and have a sense of well being. But how can we reach that goal?
Fortunately, a highly respected social psychologist, Dr. David G. Myers, has reviewed thousands of recent scientific studies regarding what makes people happy and he has published his findings in a book called “The Pursuit of Happiness” , Avon Books 1992.
First of all being rich does not make people happy (page 31), so scratch that. Having happy ancestors does have a big influence (page 122); however for most of us, it’s too late to choose our parents. So what can we actually do to become happier?
Well, in a nutshell, here it is:
- Develop a strong faith and trust in God. page 183
- Believe in an afterlife. page 200
- Focus on spiritual rather than material accomplishments. page 188
- Focus on the present moment more than on the past and the future. page 51
- Focus on what you have, not on what you are lacking. page 56
- Focus on what others are lacking, not on what they have. page 56
- Focus on helping others, not helping yourself. page 194
- Develop good relationships with family and friends; try to be part of a supportive community and family. pages 142 and 155
- Try to find employment which suits your talents. page 129
- Maintain a healthy diet. page 77
- Exercise. page 77
- In general, care for your health. page 76
- Get enough rest. Allow quiet time to relax. page 138
This is the true, common sense, scientifically proven path to achieve greater happiness, not the endless pursuit of wealth, fame, sex, drugs, fattening food and alcohol. All of those things bring a brief thrill, but at a high cost and they cannot provide long term satisfaction and well being. (For proof, read the biographies of the rich and famous.) Many people, especially young adults, are distracted by such things, sometimes wasting years and sometimes ruining or terminating their lives in the process. Instead, simply the quiet, sober, healthy, generous, religious life is what really works. Difficult and boring, perhaps. But in the long run, much happier.
When we meet an atheist, we should pity him. Not only has lost the next world, which he doesn’t believe exists; however he has lost this world as well. He finds pain difficult to cope with since he believes that disasters happen without reason. He believes that his existence will soon end. He believes that human accomplishments have no permanent or cosmic significance. In light of this, he may try to squeeze out whatever pleasure he can from his fleeting life, with little concern for how this affects other people or even how it affects his own long term future. He may very well become an addict – obsessed with alcohol, drugs or some other substance or behavior, which makes him feel good at first but not for long. Finally, as he grows older and his hopes of pleasure dim, he may prefer suicide. He has nothing to look forward to, so why bother any more?
Richard Dawkins attempts to put this in a positive light when he says, “if you're an atheist, you know, you believe this is the only life you're going to get. It's a precious life. It's a beautiful life. It's something that we should live to the full, to the end of our days, whereas, if you're religious, and you believe that there's another life, somehow, that means you don't live this life to the full, because you think you're going to get another one. That's an awfully negative way to live a life. Being an atheist frees you up to live this life properly, happily, and fully.”
Whatever “religion” he is referring to, it doesn’t seem to be Orthodox Judaism. The life of a Jew is filled each day with immense gratitude to God for all His blessings and with boundless joy for the opportunity to serve Him. The Jew is not on an endless pleasure treadmill, chasing rainbows that turn out to be illusions. He is accomplishing great things each day by studying Torah, praying and performing Jewish rituals. In addition to that, Jews believe in loving each other, which alleviates so much of the isolation and loneliness common in our self-centered world. Tragic stories such as people committing suicide in a park so that they would not “die alone” are unimaginable in the Orthodox community.
It’s also noteworthy that Judaism can help a person develop a tremendous amount of self-control. It’s probably no accident that virtually all addiction recovery programs consider belief in God to be an essential component.
What a gift atheists are throwing away. Someone wishing to “live to the full, to the end of his days” needs to accept God and His Torah.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 11:33 AM