I dispise inter-blog debates. I think they’re juvenile, modern-day schoolyard shouting matches with a tiresome and alarming amount of “Yeah”s and “Oh, burn”s and “You’re an idiot”s and “Our point of view is the awesomest”s streaming from the writers and commenters in poisonous, vitriolic language that exposes the desperation and intellectual bankruptsy of all involved. But I’m not above it.
I don’t mean for this to turn into one of those. I just feel compelled to point out what appear to be some grand lapses in reason in Rabbi Adam Jacobs’ March 6th entry on HuffPo called, A Reasonable Argument for God’s Existence.
(Jacobs’ post is actually a summary of Rabbi Moshe Averick’s analysis of what is termed “the origin of life problem that confronts the naturalist camp within the scientific community”. You can find the full treatment in Averick’s book Nonsense of a High Order, but I will reference Jacobs’ piece only.)
The first thing that caught my attention in this article was the title, “A Reasonable Argument for God’s Existence”. I wondered if in fact someone was finally going to posit a reasonable argument for the existence of a deity.
Well, I’ll spare you the suspense and tell you after the fold:
Nope. Not even close.
A tired tactic for someone with no reasonable argument in favor of his or her point of view is to attack the opposition; in Jacobs’ case, naturalists/scientists. And Instead of providing a reasonable argument for God, Jacobs begins the piece by inventing a shortcoming of naturalist philosophy:
. . . . I have noticed a consistent theme. It was frequently remarked that religious lines of argumentation lack reason. The contention seems to be that most, if not all, religious systems rely solely on wholly unsubstantiated faith to support their beliefs.
Is this contention in fact true? From a theistic perspective the reality seems quite inverted in that it would appear to require an unreasonable commitment to naturalism to maintain a denial of the transcendent.
Well, no. That’s just not true. It does not require an unreasonable commitment to naturalism to maintain a denial of the transcendent. It requires a very minimal commitment to naturalism, an embarrassingly basic understanding of logic, and the most minuscule bit of intellectual honesty to maintain a denial of the transcendent. There is simply no evidence for divinity. And anyone thinking about the subject free of biases and emotional attachments will maintain denial as a matter of course, and then re-assess his or her stance if and when evidence comes to light.
Nothing unreasonable about that.
But maybe Jacobs doesn’t want to show his hand just yet. Maybe he’s building up to the advertized reasonable argument for God’s existence.
Well, the next few paragraphs seem to be more song and dance about the failures of his opposition. He touts the fact that in the decades since the discovery of DNA, science has yet to come up with solid leads as to the origin of life. Presumably, the origin of life on Earth is the key to God’s existence.
The truth of the matter is that we see scientists coming up surprisingly empty-handed and that even within scientific circles, the few hypotheses they do have are shredded to ribbons by their colleagues within the scientific community.
Forget for a minute that we have made great progress with some wonderful ideas about the origin of life, I’ll just comment on this tidbit by saying, we certainly hope the few hypotheses they do have are shredded to ribbons by their colleagues within the scientific community. We should be suspicious of any hypotheses that are accepted without anyone attempting to shred them to ribbons. That’s why science works so well. Hypotheses are shredded to ribbons all the time. It’s called peer review. It’s called testability. The door must remain open for re-assessment, but it’s how we know the hypotheses that cannot be shredded to ribbons are most probably true.
But we still haven’t heard Jacobs’ reasonable argument for the existence of god.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t come quickly in the article, as he then takes great pains to show how little progress science has made in solving the origins of life question. He also confuses “faith” with “confidence” with this head-scratching pronouncement:
. . . There just is no evidence for [how life began]. Not one [scientist] has the foggiest notion about how to answer life’s most fundamental question: How did life arise on our planet? The non-believer is thus faced with two choices: to accept as an article of faith that science will eventually arrive at a reasonable, naturalistic conclusion to this intellectual black box or to choose to believe in the vanishingly small odds that the astonishing complexity, intelligence and mystery of life came about as a result of chance, . . .
First of all, the non-believer (or naturalist in this case) does not have to accept as an article of faith that science will eventually arrive at a reasonable, naturalistic conclusion to this intellectual black box. We can be confident that science will eventually arrive at a reasonable, naturalistic conclusion, but that is not faith; at least it’s not the connotation used by Jacobs.
And for the record, there are no time tables for discovery. There is no deadline. So even if we, as naturalists, are confident, we understand that an explanation may not be coming any time soon.
But that doesn’t mean we are incapable of solving the mystery. It just means we don’t have the answer yet. We currently don’t know. And science has no problem with “I don’t yet know”. It does, however, have a big problem with “I don’t yet know, so there is obviously no natural explanation”.
Jacobs then goes on to show how incredibly unlikely he thinks it is that life would arise by being overly impressed with long odds. He quotes some people out of context, and then finally, FINALLY he lays out his reasonable argument for God’s existense:
I posit to you that all the evidence points, in an obvious and inextricable way, to a supernatural explanation for the origin of life. If there are no known naturalistic explanations and the likelihood that “chance” played any role is wildly minute, then it is a perfectly reasonable position to take that a conscious super-intelligence (that some of us call God) was the architect of life on this planet. Everyone agrees to the appearance of design. It is illogical to assume its non-design in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
Really Rabbi? That’s what you’re going with? That’s your reasonable argument for God’s existence?
I wonder if Jacobs realizes that saying, “If there are no known naturalistic explanations . . . then it is a perfectly reasonable position to take that a conscious super-intelligence (that some of us call God) was the architect of life on this planet.” is tantamount to saying, “If there are no known naturalistic explanations, then it is a perfectly reasonable position to take that Liberace’s ghost (that some of us call Sparkletor) was the architect of life on this planet”. Or that it is tantamount to saying, If there are no known naturalistic explanations, then it is a perfectly reasonable position to take that a Unicorn fart (that some of us call Fancy Fluff) was the architect of life on this planet.
There is the exact same amount of evidence for God, Sparkletor, and Fancy Fluff.
Basically, Jacobs argument is, “I don’t understand it, so it must be God.”
Odd that a reasonable argument for God’s existence would trigger a flashback to, “Fucking magnets. How do they work?”