Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Science versus Atheism

Atheism is a religion which became popular following the publication of its bible "Origin of Species" in 1859. Atheism teaches that the Biblical God, an intelligent, eternal, creator, does not exist and that life developed through the unguided, natural process of evolution.

Many recent advancements in science have seriously undermined the atheist faith. How long can they turn a blind eye to reason and evidence and continue to cling to their old, Victorian era myths?

Atheists rejected an eternal God and therefore were forced to assume that the universe has existed eternally. This has recently been proven to be false - the universe in fact was created about 13 billion years ago. If there is no God, where did it come from?

Recent research has demonstrated that the universe is fine tuned to make life possible. If there is no God, who fine tuned it?

If there is no God, how did life appear on earth and appear so suddenly?

If life evolved through small, gradual, trial and error changes, not divine creation, then why do the fossils indicate sudden dramatic changes?

If life developed through genetic mutations and natural selection, how could flatworms develop into humans in only 500 million years, while only one organism in countless trillions is born with a beneficial de novo genetic mutation?

Atheists may try to devise various tortured and complicated arguments to justify their beliefs. 

Some have desperately suggested that space aliens have created the universe and created life.

But surely atheists, especially the younger generation who are more open minded and less dogmatic than their traditional parents, will eventually have to throw their hands up in despair and admit "God did it!"

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Miraculous Mouth

Every day we use our mouths, but how often do we contemplate what a marvel of engineering it is, even on the most superficial level?

Notice how the nose is positioned directly over the mouth like a security guard. If you attempt to put something rotten into your mouth, the nose warns you to take it away.

Inside the mouth, the front teeth are sharp like knives. They are ready to chop off a small bite sized piece of a large chunk of food. The teeth further back in the mouth are very different - they are like millstones. The molars are broad and rough and grind the food into a fine pulp which is suitable for further digestion. 

The tongue is covered with taste buds which further screen the safety of the food being put in the mouth. If something tastes bad, then it probably is bad for you and you will warned by the taste buds to spit it out.

The tongue is also covered with very sensitive nerves. The tongue is constantly moving around the mouth during chewing to check if the food is thoroughly chewed before swallowing. If some hard object in the food cannot be chewed, the tongue senses this and it is spat out.

If a person is missing part of his mouth as a result of a birth defect, cancer surgery or an accident, surgeons can replace it, but only to a limited degree and mainly by removing tissues from other parts of the body and using them to rebuild the mouth. Our mouths are truly priceless machines which we use constantly without a second thought. Let's remember to thank God every time we eat.

At the same time, what could be more insane than the idea that random mutations, even in hundreds of millions of generations, could create this clear example of purposefulness and complexity? Imagine a factory producing telegraphs which would occasionally make some random production error. Then customers would non-randomly select only those devices which are functional. (Non-functioning machines would not be purchased and would be discarded.) The factory would then continue to faithful reproduced those machines with a functional error while occasionally accidentally making some new random change to them as well. How much chance is there that a simple telegraph would evolve into a smart phone - with no intelligent designer, merely random accidental production errors and customer selection? This is exactly how atheists believe the primitive mouth of a flatworm turned into our mouths through 550 million years of random genetic mutations and natural selection. What massive blind faith is required to believe that; the Pope should be put to shame.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Are the Fossils a Diabolical Trick?

[not really bones?]

Recently I took my family on a trip to the American Museum of Natural History. The dinosaur exhibits are amazing, however they do raise a question: from the point of view of Judaism, when did they live or did they indeed live at all?

The most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote that we can readily accept the possibility that God created 6,000 years ago fossils, bones or skeletons (for reasons best known to Him), and this explains the existence of fossils.  

In other words, the trilobite, dinosaur and mammoth fossils were never parts of actual animals but are rather natural formations created by God.

Some very conservative Christians have believed that the dinosaur bones were planted by God to test our faith.  

I personally have difficulty accepting this.  Isaiah 43:7 wrote "Every one that is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, I have formed him, yea, I have made him." I think that this implies that there is some positive purpose in everything God has created; it is all for His glory. It seems impossible to imagine a positive purpose in creating rocks which look like bones. Furthermore, the fossil strata, many of which include only extinct plants and animals and which therefore give an impression that other different ecological systems existed before the present one, have misled many people to believe that the Torah is false. It seems inconceivable that God would create anything solely for the negative purpose of testing and deceiving people.

It therefore seems to me more reasonable to suggest that the fossils are exactly what they appear to be - remnants of earlier worlds. These earlier worlds may well have existed to prepare the earth for our present existence.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Is Alcoholics Anonymous Compatible with Judaism?

[a prophet?]

Orthodox Jewish alcoholics are rare, however they do exist. Some attend regular meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous in an effort to recover. Does Orthodox Judaism permit this, however?
My opinion is no, it does not. AA is a religion unto itself and to join AA means joining another religion, in addition to observing Judaism.

Here is my basis for saying so.

Alcoholics Anonymous is based on a document called the Big Book. AA members will tell you that if you wish to become and remain sober, then you must follow the teachings of the Big Book. If you do so, you are guaranteed to lead a life of sobriety; if you do not you are guaranteed to suffer and eventually die prematurely.

This belief is not based on science. Scientific research indicates that AA may be helpful, especially in conjunction with professional treatment, for many people who are addicted to alcohol, but it is not a unique, guaranteed cure.

Rather this is based on the belief that Bill Wilson wrote the Big Book with divine guidance. In other words, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous must accept that Bill Wilson was a prophet. This belief permeates all AA meetings and all advice from AA  "sponsors" (spiritual guides). The Big Book cannot under any circumstances be questioned, amended or improved upon with the implication that it is infallible holy scripture. In AA to think critically is prohibited because "your best thinking got you here" (see slogan 389)  

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 11a) states that Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi were the last prophets. Furthermore, Maimonides stated that the spirit of prophecy only rests upon the wise man who is distinguished by great wisdom and strong moral character, whose passions never overcome him in anything whatsoever, but who by his rational faculty always has his passions under control, and possesses a broad and sedate mind. Therefore, in my humble opinion, the idea that Mr Wilson, who apparently was not even a very nice person, was a prophet is ludicrous and even heretical.

Joining Alcoholics Anonymous involves accepting a false prophet. It is very similar seemingly to a Jew joining a mosque (Muslims also abstain from alcohol, incidentally). 

If a Jew sadly has succumbed to the habit of habitual heavy drinking, I would urge him to wholeheartedly, enthusiastically commit himself to Judaism.

We don't need a Higher Power. We have God.
We don't need Bill Wilson. We have Moses.
We don't need the Twelve Steps. We have the Ten Commandments.
We don't need the Big Book. We have the Talmud.
We don't need meetings. We have a synagogue.
We don't need a sponsor. We have a rabbi.

In addition, making vows along the following lines may be helpful.

I hereby accept upon myself that if later this week or next week I knowingly and deliberately purchase any beverage containing alcohol, I will be required to fast 2 days sometime during this month of ------ or next month of -------.

I hereby accept upon myself that if later this week or next week I knowingly and deliberately consume any beverage containing alcohol, I will be required to fast 2 days sometime during this month of ------ or next month of -----.

If the drunkard is not helped by this, then sadly AA would probably work no better.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Science and Pseudo-science


Diederik Stapel (pictured above) was the dean of the social and behavioral sciences faculty of the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands. He was fired this week for fabricating data which he used to support research papers which he published. 

His general method towards the end of his career was to develop a complete experiment at the level of theory, hypotheses, methods, stimuli, questionnaires, and even participants' rewards and to then pretend to run the experiments at schools which only he had access to. Instead of doing so, he would make up the data and send these to colleagues for further analysis. 

In other words, the scientific publications of a distinguished researcher were in fact purely works of fiction.

Some people will say that this event actually reinforces the validity of science, because it proves that "science is self correcting" and fakes are always quickly caught. However that isn't true. It just proves that this guy got caught, however we have no idea how many cleverer or luckier people are not.

The New York Times quotes Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara as saying “The big problem is that the culture is such that researchers spin their work in a way that tells a prettier story than what they really found. It's almost like everyone is on steroids, and to compete you have to take steroids as well.” In other words, like athletes, scientists have to cheat to succeed professionally. This is not encouraging.  

I think that it would be more honest and accurate to be more careful with the word "science", a word which I believe has carried so much prestige since the 1870s and the life saving breakthroughs of Louis Pasteur.

Physics, chemistry and medicine are based on exact, repeatable laboratory experiments which make fraud unlikely. These fields win Nobel Prizes and have greatly enhanced and lengthened our lives. These fields should be called "science" and their practitioners called "scientists".

Astronomy, geology, paleontology and biology should be called "natural philosophy" and practitioners would be called "natural philosophers".

Psychology, sociology, archeology, literature, art, history and economics should be called "humanities" and practitioners would be called "human researchers".