Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Codependent Family


[Watch a family trying to detach.]

One thing which I have noticed is how many people who have chosen to convert from Orthodox Judaism to atheism continue to be supported financially and emotionally by relatives who are still Orthodox.

This is somewhat surprising, considering that 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.” See Chofetz Chaim 8:5 where 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. These people actually hate the idea of a Higher Power who is telling them to do things and who will reward or punish them accordingly. Therefore we pray constantly for the heretic's complete destruction. When he dies, his relatives celebrate his death (Yoreh De'ah , 345, 5) . He may not read from the Torah in the synagogue or lead communal prayers. If he pours wine, a Jew may not drink it.

Some people may apologize for these apostates by claiming that they are merely ignorant or misguided however they have no bad intentions.

I think this depends on the circumstances.

Let's consider for a moment Holocaust denial as an analogy to Torah denial.

Let's say someone tells me that he believes that the Holocaust is a hoax fabricated by the Zionists. Now if this person were raised in Iran and educated from childhood by this parents and teachers to believe this and he had little opportunity to learn anything else, in that case I would say that he may be a good man who has simply been misled by his society. However, if he was born and raised in America, then I would say that there is no excuse for his false beliefs and he is clearly a Jew hater. Nothing else could cause this delusion.

By the same token, if someone raised in a secular home tells me that he does not believe in God and the Torah, I would say that he may be a good man who has simply been misled by his society. However, if he was born and raised in an Orthodox family, then I would say that there is no excuse for his false beliefs and he is clearly a God hater. Nothing else could cause this delusion.

The families who continue to support relatives whom they know, or strongly suspect, of being heretics, I believe are exhibiting classic codependent and enabling behaviors which are so often seen in the families of substance abusers. They are exacerbating the problem and are making themselves part of it. Bear in mind, that generally the heretic does in fact have real addiction problems, such as sexual addiction.

A more appropriate and truly merciful response would be complete detachment from the apostate.

76 comments:

GodAwful said...

Mr. Stein,
You are correct.
The apostate that you have become, the Christian family that raised you should definitely employ biblical, fanatical zealotry in pursuit of your death. They are no doubt as bellicose in defense of god's exaltation as you are. After all, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
I still can't figure out why your parents havn't killed you yet? Maybe they think that your mental abberations warrant some sort of leniency. However, I would caution them not to offer you the benefit of the doubt. That might infuriate god, he being a jealous and avenging spirit. And you definitely wouldn't want to infuriate him. Just look at what he has visited upon the chareidim.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Or they could be following the Torah's guidance and imitating Avraham Avinu's approach which was to win over the sinner with love. The Gemara in Berachos after all tells us to hate the sin but not the sinner and there are copious examples throughout Talmudic and later literature of people who left the fold but then returned when treated with compassion and respect.
Do you have any Torah sources for your approach?

jewish philosopher said...

"They are no doubt as bellicose in defense of god's exaltation as you are."

Excuse me GodAwful, however your god, Evolution, seems to require far greater quantities of blood.

The key elements in the ideology that produced Auschwitz are moral relativism aligned with a rejection of the sacredness of human life, a belief that violent competition in nature creates greater and lesser races, that the greater will inevitably exterminate the lesser, and finally that the lesser race most in need of extermination is the Jews. All but the last of these ideas may be found in Darwin’s writing.

http://article.nationalreview.com/354823/dont-doubt-it/david-klinghoffer

"The Gemara in Berachos after all tells us to hate the sin but not the sinner"

This refers to a believer who lacks self control, not an apostate or heretic.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Not really. If you look at the mephorshim on the verse as well as the context in the Gemara, it refers to sin in general.
In addition, you have to differentiate between knowing and confused apostasy. Most authorities today will tell you there are very, very few true apikorsim in the world. There are lots of undereducated OTD's who would like to think they know enough to be apikorsim but thinking they are doesn't make it so. A child who would reject his family and Judaism sometimes has unresolved issues that were not answered in a decent enough fashion. Providing those answers instead of a wholesale rejection would lead to the child returning to the fold, surely a best case outcome.

jewish philosopher said...

I'm sorry, but as far as I know, this is nonsense.

Someone with a cold and someone who is HIV positive are both sick, but the severity, treatment and prognosis are entirely different.

By the same token, someone who is a believer yet lacks self control and someone who is an apostate are both sinners, however the severity, treatment and prognosis are entirely different.

True, some Torah deniers can be excused because of ignorance, as can some Holocaust deniers. However in many cases that is obviously not true.

Incidentally, I believe that modern Orthodox Jews tend to take a very lenient view of atheists because modern Orthodox in fact is an intermediary phase between Judaism and atheism.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2010/03/modern-orthodoxy-is-it-ok.html

Garnel Ironheart said...

Yes, yes, I read that piece and it had all the intellectual rigeous of a sodden noodle. However, my point was not to call apostasy and other sinners equivalent. The halacha clearly differentiates between mumar lehachis and mumar lete'avon. My point is that most OTD's today are mumar lete'avon despite their claims to be lehachis.
Let's look at the evidence, shall we? First there are the God-deniers. Generally their arguments are so weak as to be ignorable. Hence one cannot really take their claims to a lack of belief seriously. After all, their very existence proves God's. There are a few (Hitchens, Dawkins and friends) but the majority are simply following the gemara's statement that the only reason our ancestors embraced avodah zarah is because of the sexual freedom it offered.
Then there are the ones who deny the Torah. Again, look at their reasons. They spout nonsense like God being vengeful and genocidal which shows a complete misunderstanding of the nature of God (as we can, in our limited way, understand Him) and Torah. Therefore the "god" they are rebelling against isn't God but a fiction they've created to justify their current lifestyle. But in any case, they are not TRUE apostates.
The difference between your approach and the Torah approach is that the latter calls for sensitivity, investigation and understanding subtle but important differences between a person suffering a lack of faith for poor reasons and a true rasha. Yours is far less discriminating and not reflective of the complexity of Torah and halacha.

jewish philosopher said...

First of all, let me mention that this blog is following the teachings of the pre-war Lithuanian yeshivas, not Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, not Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook.

Secondly, I do cite clear sources for my opinions. You're welcome to examine them.

Thirdly, what would you say about this guy, for example? Is he a TRUE apostate or another fake apostate?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MIeLoTJO8Q

Garnel Ironheart said...

I don't believe I was quoting either of those two rabbonim. And in any case, Rav Avraham Yitchak HaKoken Kook, zt"kl, was a graduate of the Volozhin Yeshiva, a student of the Netziv and Rav Chayim Brikser as well as close friends with the 2nd Gerrer Rebbe, Rav Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld and the Chofetz Chayim. You don't get much more pre-war Lithuanian yeshiva that that.


And no, this post quoted no sources.

jewish philosopher said...

See Chofetz Chaim 8:5 and Yoreh De'ah , 345, 5 and http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0003_0_02999.html

all from this post.

I am sorry that I didn't make myself clear. I was not referring to every person who ever attended a Lithuanian yeshiva before 1939. I meant the deans and lecturers of the Lithuanian yeshivas between the two world wars. Rabbi Kook studied in the Volozhin Yeshiva for 18 months as a teenager in the 1880's.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Isaac_Kook#Biography

NoLiveGod said...

Garnel,

How interesting. You find the arguments of the "God-deniers" weak? I wonder which ones.

Personally, I find the arguments of the "God affirmers" to be pretty weak.

Would you do me the favor of stating the clearest and most succinct single argument for God? I'm only asking for a sentence or maybe two.

I'm happy to return the favor, if you like.

Mahla said...

I think that maybe the family fears that if they cut off their loved one, they will push them out of religious observance forever.

Also, if they remain supportive of their struggling loved one, at least they will be able to provide a little bit of guidance and influence.

If the person who has rejected faith is pushed out of the family, he or she will find any number of non-religious or even anti-religious influences who will seek to provide guidance and influence of a different sort.

jewish philosopher said...

Unfortunately, often the original atheist never repents, while at the same time he influences his brothers and sisters to change as well.

OTD said...

>modern Orthodox Jews tend to take a very lenient view of atheists because modern Orthodox in fact is an intermediary phase between Judaism and atheism.

Right on!

Philo said...

It gives me great sadness to say that for the first time JP and OTD agree, I must disagree. Real Modern Orthodoxy is a dying breed and some examples of them would be Avi Weiss of Riverdale, and Steven Greenberg (who is gay and an Orthodox Rabbi). There are the "haredim in T-shirt" MO's who buy the entire haredi ideology and theology but have no problem with modern technology etc.

Garnel, how does our very existence prove God's existence?

Sam said...

>The key elements in the ideology that produced Auschwitz are moral relativism aligned with a rejection of the sacredness of human life, a belief that violent competition in nature creates greater and lesser races, that the greater will inevitably exterminate the lesser, and finally that the lesser race most in need of extermination is the Jews. All but the last of these ideas may be found in Darwin’s writing.

Uh-huh. So, can you point to where in Darwin's writing he advocates moral relativism? And given that his theory was specifically about individuals competing with each other, not races, can you point to where he discusses that? Great, thanks.

jewish philosopher said...

In 1859, Darwin published a book entitled "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life".

David said...

Your quote from the sefer Chofetz Chaim and elsewhere does not provide an answer how a family should deal with a son or daughter who's gone off the derech.

If you're frum, you must realize that you have to ask a posek and not rely on your own interpretations of Gemara or how to apply statements in works like the Chofetz Chaim, which is basically quoting from chazal.

The poskim know all these sources and tons more, and yet they don't say what you have written here!

I've asked sheilos, and all the rabbonim I spoke to have told me that we only have a mitzvah to mekarev the person off the derech, who claims to be an atheist or whatever. We keep them as a part of our family and don't drive them away. This includes Rav Shmuel Auerbach shlit'a, among others of whom you might not have heard.

From where have you heard differently?

jewish philosopher said...

"The poskim know all these sources and tons more, and yet they don't say what you have written here!"

Not to my knowledge. Sources please?

Sam said...

>In 1859, Darwin published a book entitled "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life".

OED Definition 6.I for "races": "A group of people, animals, or plants connected by common descent or origin."

OED Definition 6.II for "races": " A group or class of people, animals or things having some common feature or features." E.g., "all those individuals who have blue eyes."

It is abundantly clear from the text that the title is referring to definition number 2. You would know this if you tried reading it. You also offer no source for where his writing advocates moral relativism, I note.

David said...

I've had some discussions with talmedei chachamim on what might be the source of the poskim who advise us to be mekarev.

I think a source is the Chazon Ish (regarding Hilchos Eruvin) who writes that secular Jews are considered tinok sh'neshbah until one has testimony from a Beis Din that they've received the needed shiur of tochacha. What he meant, obviously, is that we always have to assume they're tinok sh'nishbah, because what Beis Din could ever testify?

The same applies, I believe, to someone born in a frum home. We assume they are still lacking the needed shiur of proper tochacha and if they had it they would return to their roots. Of course, tochacha has to be given in a gentle manner and with love.

That's also in the sefer Chofetz Chaim, and I'd recommend putting an emphasis on that din instead of who you have to hate.

Moreover, the Chazon Ish explains why the din of moridin v'lo maalin (which applies to the worst case scenario of a rasha) does not apply in our day and age, when we don't have nevuah, Hashgachah geluyah, etc. This is because there will be no kiddush Hashem from such actions in a world which cannot comprehend it, and adarabbah, it will only be a chillul Hashem. The way to fulfill this din in our age is through kiruv “with chains of love”! (Yoreh Deah, 2: s.k. 16).

From that we can learn that making a confrontation and being combative is counterproductive in this day and age. (There is a sefer full of sources called Avotot shel Ahavah, about kiruv, which I don’t own, but you can look for it.)

In short, it’s the opinion of the gedolim I spoke to that these same halachos apply to the children and adults off the derech as well.

jewish philosopher said...

I believe that the Chazon Ish was explaining why today atheists should not be assassinated, since an error in identifying the atheist properly would result in murder.

However the Steipler, the brother in law of the Chazon Ish, in the introduction to his book Chayai Olam, writes that he is not attempting to influence atheists with his book since they are presumably a lost cause. Later in the book, page 74, the Steipler makes it clear that only the children of atheists who know nothing else have any excuse for their false beliefs.

David said...

The Chazon Ish doesn't say that at all!

He states clearly that the law isn't applicable at all in this day and age. Instead, we have to bring them back with "chains of love."

I'll have to look inside, but I'd assume that the Steipler is saying that only the children of secular Jews are considered tinok sh'nishbah but not the parents who left frum homes, which is probably based on the Rambam's halachah about the children of Karaites.

But I'm not saying we have to mekarev OTD Jews because they're tinok sh'nishbah, even if they're meshumad l'avodah zara, mechallel Shabbos b'farhesiyah, etc. the Chazon Ish writes clearly we have to return them with "chains of love".

Take a look inside!

jewish philosopher said...

I think that as with drug addiction, also with apostasy, there is a tendency for relatives to deny the magnitude of the problem and thereby enable the apostate and worsen the situation.

The phenomenon of heresy and apostasy are very ancient and the Talmud and legal codes contain abundant guidelines for responding to this tragedy. I don't believe that anything has changed in the past century.

These people must be expelled from our homes, schools and synagogues. We must pray for their deaths. When that happy event comes, we must celebrate it.

Alex said...

> "I would say that he may be a good man who has simply been misled by his society. However, if he was born and raised in an Orthodox family, then I would say that there is no excuse for his false beliefs and he is clearly a God hater. Nothing else could cause this delusion...the Steipler makes it clear that only the children of atheists who know nothing else have any excuse for their false beliefs."

It's a shame that you can think of no excuse (and think that neither can the Steipler). It took me all of three seconds to think of a good excuse -- and this is coming from someone (me) who /does/ believe in God.

It's called "crappy parents." If you discover that your parents are crappy, you are very likely to reach the conclusion that the beliefs that they teach are also crappy.

jewish philosopher said...

If someone has been thoroughly indoctrinated since birth to deny the Torah, he may therefore be excused for denying the Torah.

However if someone merely has abusive parents, an abusive spouse, abusive teachers, a craving for cheeseburgers, an addiction to Internet porn, workplace discrimination, pogroms, anti-Semitic legislation, etc these are tests and challenges, not excuses. If he withstands the test and remains loyal to Torah, his reward will be immense, if he fails the test and becomes an apostate, he may be in for some big problems.

Joel said...

From original post: "However, if he was born and raised in an Orthodox family, then I would say that there is no excuse for his false beliefs and he is clearly a God hater."

I don't see how "atheist" implies "God Hater". An atheist is, by definition, someone who doesn't believe in God - this definition doesn't say anything about one's feelings towards said deity.

Joel said...

"However if someone merely has abusive parents, an abusive spouse, abusive teachers, a craving for cheeseburgers, an addiction to Internet porn, workplace discrimination, pogroms, anti-Semitic legislation, etc these are tests and challenges, not excuses. If he withstands the test and remains loyal to Torah, his reward will be immense, if he fails the test and becomes an apostate, he may be in for some big problems."

I never had any of those "tests" (I did have some teachers who were a-holes, but nothing that could be called abusive) while growing up in Orthodox Judaism. Rather, I became an atheist for intellectual/philosophical reasons.

jewish philosopher said...

"An atheist is, by definition, someone who doesn't believe in God"

He claims he doesn't. In fact, he merely hates submitting to a Higher Power.

"I became an atheist for intellectual/philosophical reasons"

Such as?

Joel said...

"He claims he doesn't. In fact, he merely hates submitting to a Higher Power."

That's quite a generalization. I can't speak for all other atheists (as you apparently can), but I assure you that my claim of disbelief is quite genuine. I submit to "higher powers" all the time, such as my boss, the IRS, etc. And when I did believe in God I had no problem following halacha. But once I stopped believing in God (for intellectual reasons) there was no longer any motivation to submit to that particular higher power, since there was no reason for me to believe that It exists. I'm really not sure how you can claim that all frum people who become atheists are only pretending so they can stop following halacha. Even if you believe that they are mistaken, can't you accept that they genuinely don't believe in God?

"Such as?"

One can write a book on that topic (and many have). I guess the short answer is that I tried to find evidence/reasons to believe that the claim of the truth of Judaism in particular, and of a deity's existence in general, were true, and I found there to be none.

jewish philosopher said...

"That's quite a generalization."

It's like generalizing that Holocaust deniers are Jew haters. I think it's pretty accurate.

"I guess the short answer is that I tried to find evidence/reasons to believe that the claim of the truth of Judaism in particular, and of a deity's existence in general, were true, and I found there to be none."

Can you provide a reasonably convincing, detailed, atheistic explanation for the origin of life or the origin of Judaism?

Joel said...

"It's like generalizing that Holocaust deniers are Jew haters. I think it's pretty accurate."

That analogy doesn't work. You seem to be saying:

_____________hates_________denies_
atheist:______god____________god
hol.denier:___jews________holocaust

Certainly you see the problem with the analogy god:god::jews:holocaust. While antisemitism is probably the primary motivation for holocaust denial, God-hating is certainly not a general motivation to atheism. Why should you hate something you don't believe in?

"Can you provide a reasonably convincing, detailed, atheistic explanation for the origin of life or the origin of Judaism?"

Certainly the existence of Judaism is not evidence for God; there are many religions that were invented before and after judaism, all for pretty much the same reasons: to try to explain that which we did not understand and for political identity. As for the origin of life: the fact that we don't currently have a great understanding of the exact mechanism for abiogenesis is certainly not evidence that no such mechanism exists, and it certainly doesn't follow that "God did it".

jewish philosopher said...

"God-hating is certainly not a general motivation to atheism."

I would suggest that for the first generation at least of Jewish converts to atheism it surely is. They are then plagued by guilt feelings which lead to depression and many other problems, as is mentioned here.

http://undercoverkofer.blogspot.com/2010/07/otd-depression-and-blame-game.html

"Certainly the existence of Judaism is not evidence for God"

Well, what I mean is this. Can you provide a reasonably plausible, detailed atheistic explanation for the unanimous acceptance of the Torah as authentic by Jews and Samaritans from ancient until modern times? If there is no God, what compelled them to believe this story? And can you provide a reasonably plausible, detailed, atheistic explanation for the origin of any functioning organ or limb in any past or present animal? How can a watch exist without the aid of a watchmaker?

Joel said...

"I would suggest that for the first generation at least of Jewish converts to atheism it surely is"

It's not for me or my other atheist ex-frum friends. I have no guilt over leaving religion, and I'm not depressed. You are making unjustifiable generalizations.

"Can you provide a reasonably plausible, detailed atheistic explanation for the unanimous acceptance of the Torah as authentic by Jews and Samaritans from ancient until modern times? "

Simple. They accept it on authority from their parents and teachers. All it takes are a few gullible people to accept the truth of a holy book, and then it propagates down through the generations. For a recent example, look at the Book of Mormon: the con man Joseph Smith convinced a few people in the 1830s of its divine origin, and now there are millions of Mormon believers.

"And can you provide a reasonably plausible, detailed, atheistic explanation for the origin of any functioning organ or limb in any past or present animal? How can a watch exist without the aid of a watchmaker?"

Once abiogenesis occurred, all later developments are explained by the mechanisms of biological evolution (mutation, natural selection, genetic drift, etc.) You can find any degree of detail you'd like in the thousands (perhaps more) of textbooks and popular accounts of biological evolution.

jewish philosopher said...

"You are making unjustifiable generalizations."

Not me, but another ex-frum atheist:

"It’s a common phenomenon that needs no further introduction: People who turn their back on Orthodox Judaism are often faced with depression."

http://undercoverkofer.blogspot.com/2010/07/otd-depression-and-blame-game.html

"All it takes are a few gullible people to accept the truth of a holy book, and then it propagates down through the generations."

Not plausible. If so we should know the names of the those few gullible people or at least that they existed, as we do with Mormonism, Christianity or Islam. In Judaism, all the Jews always believed it and there is no record or memory of anything else.

You might suggest that all Jews, and also the Samaritans who were enemies of the Jews, were a bunch of zombies who completely accepted whatever unbelievable stories Ezra the Scribe told them. Again, implausible.

"all later developments are explained by the mechanisms of biological evolution (mutation, natural selection, genetic drift, etc."

I see. So complexity, design and purposefulness can arise from random chance combined with some limiting selective mechanism. Implausible. It would be like trying to create a library of beautiful literature through random printing errors and customer selection, as I've explained here.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/03/evolution-science-hijacked-by-atheism.html

What you are suggesting is not a "Blind Watchmaker" but a "Mindless Watchmaker".

Joel said...

"People who turn their back on Orthodox Judaism are often faced with depression"

I glanced at that blog post, and it doesn't seem to to give any source data or explain the meaning of "often". I only know about a dozen ex-frum people well (including myself), and I haven't noticed this alleged phenomenon; in fact many have expressed that they happier now that they are no longer living a life they don't believe in (myself included).

"Not plausible."

Of the religions you mention, Judaism is the oldest (by a thousand years or so), so it is not surprising that we don't have as much historical knowledge of its origins. However there is some historical information and it contradicts the biblical account in many places (even besides the obvious ones like a young earth or Adam and Eve). Further, there are older religions that have since died out for which we don't know the origins either, but that is no proof of their truth. Surely you can agree that lack of evidence for something that happened in semi-prehistoric times is not evidence that it did not happen. (And anyway there is some account of Ezra reintroducing an edited Torah to those returning from exile)

You asked for a natural explanation, and I gave you one. If you wish to posit that a supernatural explanation is true, then it is you who must supply evidence. Lack of a complete prehistoric record is not going to cut it.

"It would be like trying to create a library of beautiful literature through random printing errors and customer selection"

Actually that sort of thing has been demonstrated to work on a small scale (see Dawkins' "Weasel program"). Given a large enough number of generations of customers doing the selection, it seems perfectly obvious that you can end up with any literature you like (this is simply a mathematical fact about random sampling, and the number of necessary generations is made even smaller by a reproductive mechanism, so you don't start from scratch each printing).

jewish philosopher said...

"so it is not surprising that we don't have as much historical knowledge of its origins"

I'm not asking you what happened. I am asking what could have happened. I want an atheist to provide a reasonably plausible, detailed explanation for the unanimous acceptance of the Torah as authentic by Jews and Samaritans from ancient until modern times.

"some historical information and it contradicts the biblical account in many places"

I think I've covered that, but surprise me.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/09/how-i-understand-genesis.html

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/10/biblical-deluge.html

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/02/torah-and-archaeology.html

"see Dawkins' "Weasel program""

I have and it's basically a fraud, as is explained here for example.

http://creation.com/weasel-words-creation-magazine-critique-of-dawkins

Evolutionists actually suggest something like this:

Life developed through a process similar to someone illiterate attempting to publish books through random trial and error and customer selection. He would buy a printing press, open a bookstore, start printing and make more copies of whatever sold. At first he just arranged his printing type at random, printed and put the results on the shelves. No one bought anything since it was all gibberish. He threw all these failures into the trash bin and continued printing. Eventually, purely by chance, one small booklet actually made sense and in fact became a best seller. So he kept printing more copies of it. Occasionally, there would be some typographical error in the printing; purely by chance, a page would be smudged, a line would be missing. Generally these errors would cause the book to be defective and it would be thrown into the trash, however once in a while a typo would add more meaning to a copy of the book – perhaps a few interesting new sentences. People would ask for more copies of it. The illiterate author would then faithfully reproduce that typo. Gradually entire new books developed through this process of random typographical errors and customer selection. Eventually, the inventory in the book shop had expanded to include tens of millions of titles including novels, plays, poetry, scientific textbooks, history, biography, huge dictionaries and encyclopedias and so on. In fact, these books were actually far more beautiful and profound than books ever written by any human author. All of these were produced by a totally illiterate author through a process of random printing, typos and customer selection over a very long period of time.

Needless to say, such a process is unimaginably unlikely to be successful. It has already been calculated, for example, that the possibility of a monkey typing Hamlet is infinitesimally small.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_monkey_theorem#Probabilities

In addition to that, evolutionists also have the problem of explaining the fossil record, even the fairly detailed marine fossil record, which shows nothing like such a gradual, trial and error process.

For example:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/28/science/28mari.html?_r=2&th=&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&emc=th&adxnnlx=1164720474-9wG3xm996ABK8/LrDkrUgg

Joel said...

"I'm not asking you what happened. I am asking what could have happened."

I said what I thought could have happened (that a few gullible people could have been swindled by a con man), and I gave an example to show plausibility (Mormonism).

"I think I've covered that, but surprise me."

I haven't read those posts yet, so we'll have to come back to that later.

"Needless to say, such a process is unimaginably unlikely to be successful"

Given enough time, I don't see why this process should fail.

"It has already been calculated, for example, that the possibility of a monkey typing Hamlet is infinitesimally small"

Any event with a nonzero probability of occurrence per unit time, no matter how small, will eventually occur given a long enough period of time. Life only had to start once, and then evolution would carry it the rest of the way.

Also, I'd suggest not to take the printing metaphor too seriously. While it might be true that the universe is not old enough for some improbable things to have happened, like a monkey typing Shakespeare or a baseball quantum tunneling through a wall, that doesn't mean that it isn't old enough for abiogenesis to have happened, since the numbers are not identical; the metaphor is just useful to explain the mechanism of natural selection.

"...fossil record"

I think you're trying to Gish Gallop me.

jewish philosopher said...

"I said what I thought could have happened (that a few gullible people could have been swindled by a con man)"

And I have explained why that is implausible, because Jewish history mentions no such process of one founder who convinced a few disciples, who convinced more disciples, etc as was the case with Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, etc. Basically, what you are suggesting is that Judaism was founded that way, as were many other religions, but then, in Judaism, someone, for example Ezra, came along and said "Hey, you know that story about the founder and his disciples, and their disciples, etc. Well, you know that was really not true. Really God spoke to millions of people at once at Mount Sinai and that's how it all started!" and all Jews and Samaritans like a bunch of zombies said "Right, OK, we believe that."

Implausible.

"Given enough time, I don't see why this process should fail."

Try it. When you start making millions with best sellers, give me a call.

"Gish Gallop"

I think you can only do that in a live debate.

Joel said...

"And I have explained why that is implausible"

It clearly is plausible since it happened in so many other religions. The fact that there is a claim in the Torah that millions witnessed Har Sinai makes no difference; that's just part of the myth that the gullible people would have needed to be convinced of, which would have been no problem at all considering the fact that even today there are millions of people who think they have witnessed miracles (eg. from Sathya Sai Baba or Benny Hinn). I think you are underestimating the capacity for humans to be convinced of BS.

"Try it. When you start making millions with best sellers, give me a call."

I said "given enough time". Obviously such a thing would take much longer then a human lifetime. Evolution took billions of years.

jewish philosopher said...

If it's so easy to convince anyone of anything, then what validity does any history have?

And if anything can happen by chance, how do I know that your comments are the work of a human author and not a cat jumping on a keyboard somewhere?

And then there's the fossil problem.

Joel said...

"And if anything can happen by chance, how do I know that your comments are the work of a human author and not a cat jumping on a keyboard somewhere?"

Are you serious? Do you really not see the difference between that scenario and the scenarios above (natural selection and selection of texts over LONG periods of time)?

"If it's so easy to convince anyone of anything, then what validity does any history have?"

What does the validity of an academic discipline based on multiple independent forms of evidence have to do with the validity of holy books? Totally unrelated.

In most of your previous comments it seemed like you were actually attempting to have a constructive conversation, but that last comment makes no sense. Just seems like creationist talking points without substance.

"And then there's the fossil problem."

WTF?

jewish philosopher said...

The point is not whether or not people are self deceiving. The point is whether or not large scale conspiracies are likely to be successful. I think the consensus is that they are not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspiracy_theory#Criticism

Yet, you insist that the Torah somehow is different. In this case, one person convinced millions to change their national history and no one objected - a perfect conspiracy. If so, how we can trust anything about history? Perhaps one person or a few clever people fooled everyone about a plane hitting the Pentagon, about astronauts landing on the moon or about gas chambers in Auschwitz.

In regards to life, we ordinarily see purposefulness as a clear indication of intelligent design.

http://www.seti.org/Page.aspx?pid=558#a3

I see no reason to make an exception here.

Joel said...

But conspiracy theories ARE accepted by millions of people all the time even when they are false! (Such as 911 truthers, moon landing hoaxers etc.) That's my whole point.

"Yet, you insist that the Torah somehow is different. In this case, one person convinced millions to change their national history and no one objected - a perfect conspiracy."

No, I said one (or a few) people only needed to convince a few people, then it would be multiplied over generations by child indoctrination. And it was not a perfect conspiracy, most humans don't believe in Torah misinai, just like most Americans don't believe the moon landing was a hoax, but millions do.

"we ordinarily see purposefulness as a clear indication of intelligent design"

It's a mistake to apply that argument to biological systems, as has been known for 150 years.

"I see no reason to make an exception here."

The reason is the robust scientific evidence for evolution and common descent.

jewish philosopher said...

So you believe that it would be no problem for a nutty but very manipulative person to sit down and write a book about how he and millions of other people witnessed amazing miracles, heard God speak, etc and he would be able to build up a following and establish a major religion. None of his disciples would be bright enough to ask where exactly are all these millions of people who experienced it all.

Sorry; implausible.

About evolution, if it's such a solid theory, then I wonder why evolutionists are not demanding more global warming. After all, in the past, mass extinction events have always greatly accelerated evolution.

Of course, everyone really knows that evolution is a scam created to substitute a mindless process for God.

Joel said...

"Sorry; implausible"

It's well established that many people will readily believe things that are extremely implausible. Tons of gullible people readily accept the story of Xenu blowing up volcanoes filled with aliens (from Scientology) or the story of Jesus revealing himself to native Americans (from Mormonism). Both these events were supposedly witnessed by many people (or beings), and I'm sure you'd agree that both these events did not happen; similarly with myriad other religions and cults. But people believe them since they or their ancestors were convinced by charlatans. So too it is perfectly plausible that the story of matan torah misinai (with its millions of witnesses and all) was either a corruption of an earlier myth or completely made up, and then swallowed without question by a similar class of ignoramuses to the people who are convinced of the truth of Scientology every day. In fact, this scenario is MUCH more plausible than the possibility that the story is actually true. It's an incontrovertible and unfortuate fact that many people will readily accept things that could not possibly be true.

You're comment "I wonder why evolutionists are not demanding more global warming. After all, in the past, mass extinction events have always greatly accelerated evolution" is pretty dumb, I must say. Evolution is a historical fact, but that in no way implies that biologists think further evolution would be good or bad for humans. It's the classic distinction between IS and OUGHT. Doctors believe in viruses too, but that doesn't mean they think that viruses are good, just that they exist.

You're not much of a "philosopher" if you think that "lots of evolution happened in the past, accelerated by mass extinction" implies "it wood be good if evolution continued to happen in the future, accelerated by mass extinction".

"Of course, everyone really knows that evolution is a scam created to substitute a mindless process for God."

More stupid. Darwin was actually troubled for a long time that his theory would displace God, but he couldn't ignore the evidence, which has only increased since his time.

jewish philosopher said...

"It's well established that many people will readily believe things that are extremely implausible."

Fine, but not me.

Can you provide a reasonably plausible, detailed atheistic explanation for the unanimous acceptance of the Torah as authentic by Jews and Samaritans from ancient until modern times? If there is no God, what compelled them to believe this story?

The theory that an eccentric but very manipulative person sat down and wrote a book about how he and millions of other people witnessed amazing miracles, heard God speak, etc and none of his disciples were bright enough to ask where exactly all these millions of people are is implausible. Try it and see how successful you are.

On the other hand, once we accept the existence of God, based on the Watchmaker analogy, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that He would have at some point appeared to mankind, to identify Himself and instruct us.

"it wood be good if evolution continued to happen in the future, accelerated by mass extinction"

Why not? Without mass extinctions in the past, we would still be one inch long and have 16 legs.

The truth is, no one thinks evolution is going to happen because obviously it can't and it never did.

Joel said...

Well, we seem to be going in circles. I never said that the author of the Torah had to be one single person or that it had to be unanimously accepted. I explained how people (especially uneducated ones) are easily duped, and gave some examples. The actual story of how the Torah actually came to be is an interesting and complicated one that stretched over hundreds of years. There is no reason to think that it came from a supernatural being or that many of the earlier tales in it are true. This is all well documented.

"Why not? Without mass extinctions in the past, we would still be one inch long and have 16 legs."

Facepalm. Are you serious? WE (humans) were not the ones who went extinct back then! And I still don't understand how you think that the goodness/badness of evolution has anything to do with its truth/falsity.

"The truth is, no one thinks evolution is going to happen because obviously it can't and it never did."

What planet are you on? Practically every biologist thinks evolution did and continues to happen. I don't expect that you will take my advice, but I strongly suggest that you read (and understand) one of the popular books on the evidence for evolution out there. I suggest Jerry Coyne's "Why Evolution is True."

jewish philosopher said...

A lot of people claim to believe in evolution; why not? Evolution means "no God needed" and without God everything is permitted.

However no one would trust evolution to actually work. That would be crazy.

Joel said...

Good grief. I guess serious discussion just ain't in the cards here.

jewish philosopher said...

Well, your basic explanation for life is: time. Just give it enough time, anything can happen.

My response is that the universe is not that big or that old. Plus the fossils indicate catasrophism not evolution.

I also think it's very suspicious that not one evolutionist has suggested that global warming and mass extinction would a wonderful thing.

Regarding the origin of Judaism, your answer is: gullible. Once someone decides to tell a story, people just believe it unquestioningly.

My response is if so, then all of history, certainly all of premodern history, may be fictional.

Joel said...

"Well, your basic explanation for life is: time. Just give it enough time, anything can happen."

No. My explanation is that given enough time and the right initial conditions, SOME things can happen. Such as large scale biological evolution. Not only could it happen, it did happen, as an abundance of evidence shows.

"the universe is not that big or that old"

Um, the universe is around 14 billion years old, and quite large, if not infinite.

"Plus the fossils indicate catasrophism not evolution"

Um, no. The people who study fossils disagree with your assessment. Read Jerry Coyne's book, it has all the references you could want. Or just open a paleontology textbook.

"I also think it's very suspicious that not one evolutionist has suggested that global warming and mass extinction would a wonderful thing."

Why would people dying be a good thing? As I've already explained, the fact that evolution exists does not imply that it would be good for us if it continued unabated.

"My response is if so, then all of history, certainly all of premodern history, may be fictional."

The difference is that there are multiple independent accounts of the historical events that are accepted as true by historians. If an event only has one account, such as Sinai, then it is regarded with skepticism, especially if it is contradicted by other evidence.

I think we've already gone over most of this. I think I at least tried to address all of your arguments, but you seem intent on just ignoring my arguments. Oh well. I like practicing my argument skills, so it wasn't a total waste.

jewish philosopher said...

"as an abundance of evidence shows"

There is no evidence whatsoever, merely speculation. We have never observed a useful new limb or organ develop spontaneously through variation and selection - not in the lab, in nature or in the fossils. No watchmaker, no watch.

"the universe is around 14 billion years old, and quite large, if not infinite"

According to the Big Bang theory (which incidentally was quite a shock to atheists) the universe is very limited in space and time.

"The people who study fossils disagree with your assessment."

Evolutionists have always tried to gloss over this, however actually the evidence indicates repeated mass extinctions followed by a sudden increase in biological complexity. In fact the original life seems to have appeared quite suddenly. Like someone just created it. According to Discover magazine July, 2007 page 62, life appeared about 50 million years after the point when the earth stabilized.

Read this about the Perm-Triassic extinction.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/28/science/28mari.html?_r=2&th=&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&emc=th&adxnnlx=1164720474-9wG3xm996ABK8/LrDkrUgg

And let's not even get into the Cambrian explosion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambrian_explosion

"Why would people dying be a good thing?"

Why would climate stabilization and therefore biological stagnation be a good thing? Eventually, this planet will become uninhabitable anyway. Very possibly, the magic of evolution would create a species of super-intelligent frogs with an IQ hundreds of times that of humans who would go on to conquer the galaxy, in the same way humans eventually replaced the dinosaurs following an asteroid strike. But of course, no one REALLY believes that.

"The difference is that there are multiple independent accounts of the historical events that are accepted as true by historians."

Actually, premodern history is based on very, very few sources, as I've explained here.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2009/07/is-history-bunk.html

According to your theory that people are so gullible, how do we know that the Normans invaded England in 1066 or that there really was even a Roman Empire? Some guy could have just made up a story and everyone believed it. But obviously, we don't imagine that everyone is a gullible zombie ready to swallow anything. An occaisional tall tale, maybe, but not national history fabricated from nothing.

So in any case, my questions still stand:

Can you provide a reasonably plausible, detailed atheistic explanation for the unanimous acceptance of the Torah as authentic by Jews and Samaritans from ancient until modern times? If there is no God, what compelled them to believe this story? And can you provide a reasonably plausible, detailed, atheistic explanation for the origin of any functioning organ or limb in any past or present animal? How can a watch exist without the aid of a watchmaker?

Joel said...

"According to the Big Bang theory (which incidentally was quite a shock to atheists) the universe is very limited in space and time."

Okay, now I just know you're making shit up. I happen to be a working cosmologist and I can tell you quite certainly that Big Bang theory does not place any limits on the size of space (even if by "space" you mean the visible universe, well that is around 90 billion light years in diameter, which is obviously quite large, containing some 100 billion galaxies, and some 10^20ish stars, hardly "very limited"). In fact the only universe with finite space is a positively curved or "closed" universe, and data shows that our universe does not fall in this category.

Stop making stuff up and argue from the facts. (I already addressed the rest of your arguments, but you seem intent on ignoring my responses.)

jewish philosopher said...

To be precise, the observable universe is finite. What if anything lies beyond is unknown.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_horizon#Cosmological_horizon

Joel said...

"To be precise, the observable universe is finite."

That's what I said. But finite does not mean "very limited" in any sense that could be relevant to biological evolution. And the 13.6 billion years since the big bang is greater than the 3.5 billion years in which life evolved on earth, so I'm not sure how your statement about time being limited has anything to do with our original discussion.

"What if anything lies beyond is unknown."

Not really relevant here, but just thought I'd give my two cents since were talking about cosmology. While it's true that there exists a particle horizon, it's not necessarily true that there is nothing we can know about what lies outside it (even if we don't want to wait for more of it to come into view), since if we can come up with a consistent theory of initial conditions (perhaps some simple state in a theory of quantum gravity, for example) that gives correct predictions for our own part of the universe, it would be natural to guess that it would also give correct predictions for other parts of the universe. Even within conventional big bang cosmology, it seems unlikely that the boundaries of the observable universe happen to coincide with any other natural boundary.

jewish philosopher said...

Apparently there are about 1E+24 stars in the universe.

http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEM75BS1VED_index_0.html

I suppose that's the observable universe.

We have no idea how many of those stars have planets, it may be a small percentage.

And the universe is about 1.375E+10 years old.

Those are basically the limits which we have to work with for the chance origin and development of life.

That may sound like plenty, however remember how complex life is. One of the most simple forms of life is E. coli. A few years ago, there was talk of creating a computer model of an E. coli, however I don't believe it got anywhere. Even a single E. coli may be too complex to re-create in a computer.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/17/health/17iht-sncoli.html?_r=1

So there's no way to do the math regarding the probability of abiogenesis and the evolution of intelligent life. I don't believe the odds are good. And then, as I keep pointing out, the fossils are wrong. Therefore punctuated equilibrium has had to be invented as a weak apologetic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium

I have an impression that you are unimpressed by the Orthodox Judaism because most scientists are. Of course this is a logical fallacy of appeal to authority.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority

In any case, do you really believe that most scientists are honest enough to sit down one day and declare "You know, it looks like God actually does exist and He did write the Torah. Well, if that's the case then all this science stuff isn't really too important. Let's close up all our labs and order copies of the Talmud and get down to some real research."

I don't think so.

Joel said...

"So there's no way to do the math regarding the probability of abiogenesis and the evolution of intelligent life. I don't believe the odds are good."

If there's no way to do the math, how can you claim the odds aren't good? The fact is, we do exist. We also understand a great deal about how we came to exist, although there is still much we don't know. However our lack of knowledge in no way implies that any gods exist or that any particular religions are true. The only useful way to answer these questions is to follow the evidence (which there is plenty of for evolution, although you seem intent on ignoring this fact). Saying that the question is too complex and therefore we should just believe "God did it" is lazy; ignoring the work already done by others in answering the question (when it's easily available) is disingenuous.

"I have an impression that you are unimpressed by the Orthodox Judaism because most scientists are. Of course this is a logical fallacy of appeal to authority."

I became unimpressed with Orthodox Judaism before I became a scientist. I was raised chassidish and I know exactly what I'm talking about in regard to OJ; there is no need for me to appeal to authority, and I don't think I've done so in my comments. If you are a believing Orthodox Jew than it is much more likely that it is you who appeals to authority (meaning chazal, gedolim, etc.)

"In any case, do you really believe that most scientists are honest enough to sit down one day and declare "You know, it looks like God actually does exist and He did write the Torah. Well, if that's the case then all this science stuff isn't really too important. Let's close up all our labs and order copies of the Talmud and get down to some real research."

If there was any evidence that the creator of the universe wrote the Torah then you can bet that my physicist colleagues would be running to comb through its' text to find what God has to say about the universe. But the fact is NO SUCH EVIDENCE HAS BEEN PROVIDED! Science is all about determining what is true using evidence and rational thinking, and trying to leave biases aside, and accepting the conclusions of such inquiries even if they may be personally distasteful. It is religion that has the problem of Dogma, not science. (Of course some individual scientists may be less than ideal practitioners, but the scientific community on the whole is committed to objectivity). I think you are trying to project the flaws of religion on to science.

jewish philosopher said...

I don't believe in evolution because there is no evidence, in fact all evidence contradicts it, and scientists are happy to believe anything - on condition that it does not involve God.

God is anathema to scientists, since once God enters the picture, then clergymen would be more important than scientists. Remember that all universities were primarily theological seminaries until about the mid-19th century. Darwin himself considered entering the clergy as a young man. Therefore scientists have been obsessed with evolution since 1859, sometimes stooping to fraud. All their prestige depends on it. Pick up a copy of "Icons of Evolution" if you have a chance.

http://www.iconsofevolution.com/


I have by the way actually read Darwin (unlike most atheists) and Dawkins. The best book actually is probably "What Evolution Is" by Ernst Mayer.

http://www.amazon.com/What-Evolution-Ernst-Mayr/dp/0465044255

He was a true authority in the field.

Joel said...

"I don't believe in evolution because there is no evidence, in fact all evidence contradicts it, and scientists are happy to believe anything - on condition that it does not involve God."

You're delusional if you really think that's what the evidence shows, or you're living in Superman's bizarro universe. (Besides, many scientists are devout, so that last part doesn't even make sense.)

"The best book actually is probably "What Evolution Is" by Ernst Mayer. He was a true authority in the field."

Here's a quote from Ernst Myer about the book you reference: "As I say in the first section of the book, I don't need to prove it again, evolution is so clearly a fact that you need to be committed to something like a belief in the supernatural if you are at all in disagreement with evolution. It is a fact and we don't need to prove it anymore. Nonetheless we must explain why it happened and how it happens.

(from http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/mayr/mayr_print.html)

jewish philosopher said...

"many scientists are devout, so that last part doesn't even make sense."

Very few are, according to studies I see.

http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/sci_relig.htm

Homosexual men, drug addicts, Communists and scientists, each for
their own reasons, are probably among the most atheistic groups in
society.

"Here's a quote from Ernst Myer about the book you reference"

Of course he says that. I can also show you articles by Christians and
Muslims proving their religions.

http://jewsforjesus.org/answers/jesus/proofessay

http://www.islaam.com/Article.aspx?id=619

Obviously, atheists, Christians and Muslims can't all be right. It's
all just nonsense.

Joel said...

wtf?

jewish philosopher said...

I mean of course Mayr is a true believer, as others are preaching the "fact" of Jesus and Mohammed. So what? Aren't you the guy who believes that most people are so gullible they'll believe anything?

I'm looking at the evidence, not any authority.

Joel said...

I was just confused by your statement "The best book actually is probably 'What Evolution Is' by Ernst Mayer... He was a true authority in the field." I guess you were being sarcastic and I didn't realize it.

"Aren't you the guy who believes that most people are so gullible they'll believe anything?"

Unfortunately many people are gullible and easily fooled. That is EXACTLY why rational inquiry (i.e. science) is the only useful source of knowledge, since it is designed to root out human bias and sloppy thinking by carefully experimenting and following the evidence.

"I'm looking at the evidence, not any authority."

LOL. You've got that completely backwards.

jewish philosopher said...

Going over your comments you seem to feel that evolution is true since biologists say so and you urge me to read some books written by them. I'm saying that I have done that and I find them no more impressive than books promoting other religions which I have also read. It's all just wishful thinking: the formation of beliefs and making decisions according to what might be pleasing to imagine instead of by appealing to evidence, rationality or reality.

Calling something "science" doesn't make it true. We've had scientific Marxism, scientific racism, Christian Science and Scientology.

In regards to the validity of the Exodus/Mount Sinai narrative, you seem to regard it as bogus, while other stories from ancient history are authentic, because other stories are are accepted as true by historians, even though in reality much of premodern history is based on a few documents preserved in medieval monastaries and the Jewish tradition is actually much more robust.

Without independently examines all the facts, you are simply accepting atheism based on authority. This is of course an obvious logical fallicy and I would assume it is the result of some personal bias.

Joel said...

You are totally off base. I accept evolution because of the evidence, I just suggested you read those books since you don't seem to understand what evolution is.

Let me ask you something about authority/evidence: Do you believe that Moses actually parted the Yam Suf? If so, what evidence do you base that belief on besides the authority of the Bible/Chazal?

jewish philosopher said...

There is no evidence of evolution - meaning a watch with no watchmaker. No one has ever observed a useful new organ or limb form spontaneously through mutation and selection, not in the fossils, nature or laboratory.

Believing a historical fact, such as the Holocaust, the Norman invasion of England or the Splitting of the Red Sea is not appeal to authority, it is a conclusion based on written and oral tradition.

Joel said...

"Believing a historical fact, such as the Holocaust, the Norman invasion of England or the Splitting of the Red Sea is not appeal to authority, it is a conclusion based on written and oral tradition."

Good grief. The Holocaust and the Norman Invasion are events for which there are multiple independent historical records (and for the case of the Holocaust, there is even eyewitness testimony from people who are still alive today), and they are events which require no supernatural entities to have happened. The evidence for Kriyas Yam Suf is the account in one ancient book, and it's a miracle story. Do you see the difference there? Putting them on equal footing is like saying that the Virgin Birth has as much historical veracity as the Battle of Gettysburg.

jewish philosopher said...

Excuse me, however aren't you the one who believes that the fact that there is a claim of millions witnessing something makes no difference; that's just part of the myth that the gullible people would have needed to be convinced of, which would have been no problem at all considering the fact that even today there are millions of people who think they have witnessed fictional things (eg. from Sathya Sai Baba or Benny Hinn).

You think I am underestimating the capacity for humans to be convinced of BS.

So, according to your understanding of human nature, what would be the problem with fabricating the Holocaust, the Norman invasion or anything else? A few con men cook up a story, millions of people believe it, including the fact that there were millions of witnesses, and that's that.

History is bunk, according to you, full stop. There is no reason to believe anything.

Of course, that's ridiculous.

Regarding miracles opposed to non-miracles, I believe that once we acknowledge the existence of God, it is perfectly plausible that He would have at some point publicly identify Himself to mankind and give us a set of instructions.

Joel said...

"So, according to your understanding of human nature, what would be the problem with fabricating the Holocaust, the Norman invasion or anything else? A few con men cook up a story, millions of people believe it, including the fact that there were millions of witnesses, and that's that."

As I have said a number of times now, events which are accepted as historical have MULTIPLE and INDEPENDENT sources which can be verified by any scholar who has the time and resources to check it out (of course this probably will never give a 100% complete picture except for relatively recent events, but we can qualify our acceptance of different events). Not so with Sinai or the splitting of the Red Sea.

And anyway, according to your logic in the last post, why shouldn't you accept everything as true?

There is clearly a difference between the two types of events, which should be easily visible to an objective judge. Consider for example the Virgin Birth (VB) vs. The Battle of Gettysburg (BG). Presumably you believe that VB is false and BG is true. Then you will need to provide an explanation why billions of Christians believe in VB. If you were an objective observer who did not already accept Judaism, you would see that the same distinction should apply for Kriyas Yam Suf vs. the Norman Invasion, for example.

"Regarding miracles opposed to non-miracles, I believe that once we acknowledge the existence of God, it is perfectly plausible that He would have at some point publicly identify Himself to mankind and give us a set of instructions."

Well, that's begging the question. (You are assuming that the thing you are proving is already true). (And anyway, it's just as perfectly plausible that the creator would leave his creation alone)

jewish philosopher said...

"Not so with Sinai or the splitting of the Red Sea."

That's just not true. Prior to five hundred years ago, literacy was rare, writing and written records were rare. Jewish history is far better documented than pre-modern English, French, Roman or Greek histories for example.

"why shouldn't you accept everything as true?"

Every claim must be examined based on it's probability and the evidence. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Ordinary claims require only ordinary evidence.

"Well, that's begging the question."

Not at all. We know that God exists based on the Watchmaker principle. From that point, it's quite plausible that God would have publicly revealed Himself at some point. The Torah certainly looks like a good candidate. The Torah is mankind's oldest, most original and most influential book. Monotheism, altruism, the alphabet and the weekend all originated with the Torah and have since been accepted by most of humanity.

Joel said...

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"

Exactly my point. This is why the claim that Moses split the Red Sea (quite an extraordinary feat) needs more evidence than that provided by ancient scripture and parent-to-child storytelling.

"That's just not true. Prior to five hundred years ago, literacy was rare, writing and written records were rare. Jewish history is far better documented than pre-modern English, French, Roman or Greek histories for example."

Not sure what you're getting at with this. My point was that the (extraordinary) Biblical events of Sinai and the Red Sea are not nearly as well documented as the (ordinary, in the supernatural sense) events that we generally consider part of historical fact. In fact, there is some archeological evidence suggesting that the exodus never occurred.

"We know that God exists based on the Watchmaker principle."

We have natural explanations for everything that exists once the universe is taken to exist. As for the universe itself, if it cannot exist without a creator, then why can God exist without a creator?

"it's quite plausible..."

It seems quite implausible that the Torah is written by the creator of the universe, even if you think that there has to be a god. It's a big book of historical and scientific inaccuracies (in addition to self contradictions) and arbitrary regulations for mundane activities, which promotes bigotry, murder, tribalism, irrational thinking etc. It's much more plausible that it was written by ancient middle eastern goat herders.

jewish philosopher said...

You're simply wrong.

The dominating historical discourse in its current state was essentially crafted in the 16th century from a rather contradictory jumble of sources such as innumerable copies of ancient Latin and Greek manuscripts whose originals had vanished in the Dark Ages.

Our knowledge of Jewish history is based on a unanimous national tradition, thousands of identical Torah scrolls, countless parents passing the heritage to their children.

Evolution is another good example of something very extraordinary however lacking any evidence. Therefore we know that God must have created us.

"It's a big book of historical and scientific inaccuracies"

Such as?

"which promotes bigotry, murder"

How many Orthodox Jewish murderers do you know of?

This is just nonsense you're cutting and pasting from talkreason.com

I don't see how you differ from the Christians who keep babbling about the "clear proofs" from the "Old Testament prophets", while in reality their mind was made up by other personal reasons.

By the same token, you'll keep insisting "science proves atheism" while in reality you have personal reasons for preferring that there is no God or Torah.

Joel said...

Just saw this on Jewish Atheist:

"jewish philosopher said...

Gay men should be beheaded."

You're so sure that the Torah was written by God that you would like to see its authority used to behead gay men? Even if all of your arguments above about the plausibility of Judaism were valid (they are not), plausibility can not justify murder.

God said "Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." The correct response Avraham should have given is: "Any god who commands murder is not a god I want anything to do with. Do your own dirty work and leave me the fuck alone, asshole."

jewish philosopher said...

The United States imposes the death penalty for certain crimes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_United_States

According to that, I guess most Americans also justify murder.

Actually, murder means taking an innocent person's life, not a condemned criminal's. Buy a dictionary.

"Any god who commands murder is not a god I want anything to do with."

That's actually the response of a loser who wants to spend all day masturbating, like you.

A sensible person would understand that since God gives life, He has the right to take it.

Joel, if you could just put that bong away and think straight for ten minutes, it might do you a world of good.

I think that you're a college student from a modern Orthodox home who converted to atheism a few years ago. All of your "arguments" are really one argument:

My professors say there is no God. My professors are infallible. Therefore there is no God. JP - why can't you get that through your head. THERE IS NO GOD! THE PROFESSORS TOLD ME! Now regarding where life came from, where the Torah came from, etc those are interesting questions. We can try and dream up some answer, any answer, who really cares however this does not the change the fact that THERE IS NO GOD! THE PROFESSORS TOLD ME!

Joel said...

"The United States imposes the death penalty for certain crimes... According to that, I guess most Americans also justify murder."

I'm against the death penalty in general, but at least in the US it's (usually) used only as a punishment for the most violent crimes. Homosexuality is a victimless "crime", comparing it to murder is a real toeivah.

"Actually, murder means taking an innocent person's life, not a condemned criminal's. Buy a dictionary."

Semantics. You know what I meant; it is unjustifiable killing of a human. The fact that it is sanctioned by law doesn't make it any better. Can't you see that killing a man for the "crime" of anal sex with another man is morally reprehensible?

"A sensible person would understand that since God gives life, He has the right to take it."

If God has the power to take a life, let him take it. But you taking a life because you think God wants you to is quite the opposite of "sensible".

"I think that you're a college student from a modern Orthodox home who converted to atheism a few years ago."

I'm a graduate student from a Chassidic home who stopped believing in Judaism around 10 years ago, but what does that matter? I would hope you would judge my arguments on their own merits.

"That's actually the response of a loser who wants to spend all day masturbating, like you... Joel, if you could just put that bong away and think straight for ten minutes, it might do you a world of good."

Ah, I see we've reached that point. Goodbye.

jewish philosopher said...

You who in your great intelligence could not create one fraction of one bacterium are going to sit in judgement of God, Who created all life, and decide when and how He may take life. Since the Torah doesn't agree with the latest New York Times editorials, it must just be wrong. Brilliant. This is the type of nitwits our great universities are producing.