Monday, September 04, 2006

ID (intelligent design) in Jewish Action.

The latest issue of Jewish Action (Fall 5767/2006) has three articles on Intelligence Design by three Orthodox scientists. The articles go from seeing ID as a possible idolatrous concept to the other extreme, as mainstream Jewish Hashkafah.

The first article by Professor Nathan Aviezer of Bar Ilan is, in my opinion, the best from a rational Jewish point of view. He argues that there is a clear delineation between science and religion. Science discusses “how” the universe functions while religion discusses who created it or if in fact it was created. Science deals with empirical evidence while religion deals with subjective interpretations of observations. What is important is that the religious explanation should not conflict with the empirical evidence. Professor Aviezer then explains that the Laws of Nature are unchanging. In fact science tries to define these unchanging laws thus explaining how everything functions and what can usually (emphasis on usually) be expected. God as creator does not conflict with science because He created the universe within the confines of the Laws of Nature by choice. Idolatrous religions on the other hand saw one or more intelligent beings who created the universe at a whim and continue running it that way. That idea is similar to ID thus putting ID squarely in the camp of idolatrous concepts. Professor Aviezer argues for the Anthropic principle as a better explanation. I have not read about it enough to discuss it intelligently. I do however have a minor problem with Professor Aviezer’s presentation where he states: “all of this should not be interpreted as implying that God does not interact with the physical world. This is certainly not the case as Rambam emphasized. Otherwise, our prayers for Divine help would have no meaning.” I believe he misunderstands Rambam on providence and prayer at times of distress. This type of prayer is seen by Rambam as part of Teshuvah compelling one to improve their behavior so that the bad consequences do not reoccur. I will be discussing that when I deal with Hashgacha. Otherwise Professor Aviezer’s article is very well presented and should be read by every thoughtful Jew. That cannot be said about the other two articles as we shall see.

Dr. Gerald Schroeder argues that there is an underlying “sentience” or non-physical component to the Universe. He identifies it as the entity that ID sees as the intelligence behind the design. He argues that it is statistically improbable that the complexities we see in the Universe would come about without an underlying design plan just randomly. Quoting Dr.Schroeder – “Mind is the essence of the creation. Light could become alive and sentient because within the light of the creation is the mind of God”. These are very dangerous words that border on pantheism if not full-blown pantheism. God is not a mind and anything that we can conceive as the essence of God, which this statement seems to imply, cannot be God. It would negate His uniqueness. His argument for a Creator from the Big Bang is also very flimsy. See my post on that issue here http://yediah.blogspot.com/2006/06/professor-stephen-hawking-and-rambam.html .

The next article by Dr. Arnold Slyper a pediatric endocrinologist is even more problematic. First he argues that Darwinism is anti religious because it negates God’s influence in the running of the universe. Quoting - “If one agrees with Darwin that evolution proceeded randomly, then it follows that God is no longer involved in His universe, either because He has no interest or because He lacks the power to do so. In either instance, the concept of a God who has an intimate and ongoing involvement with this world has been negated.” A random world is meaningless “a life without meaning and without absolute morality would be a prescription for despair.” He therefore argues that the universe is probabilistic rather than deterministic. That allows for God to interact through nature without contravening its laws. In his words “God is responsible for chance”. Thank God he admits that this not science only religion. He then continues with a discussion of blueprints, genetic code and Junk DNA which is completely irrelevant to the issue. He concludes that ID is “Jewish to the core and one of our fundamental beliefs”. A little further down he states “There is no one Jewish position on Evolution”. In short the article is confusing and makes very little sense. It is a model for a not thought out position governed by popular beliefs and philosophies. These have no relationship with real Judaism.

Concluding Professor Aviezer wins easily with a clear and well thought out article. It makes one excited about the greatness of HKBH and the beautiful and complex universe we believe He created. Dr. Schroeder uses the BT standard arguments that are dangerous because they smack of Pantheism while Dr. Slyper unfortunately is clearly confused.

55 comments:

  1. Quoting Dr.Schroeder – “Mind is the essence of the creation. Light could become alive and sentient because within the light of the creation is the mind of God”. These are very dangerous words that border on pantheism if not full-blown pantheism.

    His comment is also a panethiesm idea.

    i.e.

    Gd - Nature = Gd

    Many rishonim hold the same idea.

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  2. From Wikipedia:

    Panentheism in Judaism
    When Hasidic Orthodox Jews first developed as a movement and a theology, their theology was somewhat panentheistic, in this that they believe that God is the force behind all natural forces, even though they themselves did not use this word. While not the mainstream point of view, panentheism has become more popular in the non-Orthodox Jewish denominations like Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism, and Reconstructionist Judaism, through the writings of rabbis like Abraham Joshua Heschel, Arthur Green, Wayne Dosick, Michael Lerner and Lawrence Kushner.

    Anonymous you are probably right that Chassidim would interpret some Rishonim in that way.

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  3. I've been following the ID movement since I read Phillip Johnson's Darwin On Trial in 1995. I'm frustrated because religious Jews seem to have very little presence in this movement. Lee Spetner's Not By Chance may be an exception. But most of the time I'm stuck arguing with people who either think anything remotely resembling creationism is "junk science" or think anything remotely resembling evolutionism is heresy. While the occasional Jew flirts with the concept of ID, there's nothing like the vibrant movement that's developed among Christians (and a few open-minded agnostics) over the last two decades.

    I have a lot of skepticism about Darwinian theory, but I have no interest whatsoever in questions of Biblical interpretation. I accept that evolution may be compatible with the Torah's account of creation. But I still believe that the main purpose of Darwin's theory is to vanquish the notion of design in the biological world. The position I'm describing is very well-developed, and there are numerous books and articles arguing it in detail, yet whenever I express it among the frum bloggers, it is treated with a profound lack of comprehension. People think I'm just straddling a meaningless middle ground.

    I also see a great deal of ignorance about what ID actually says. The biggest misconception I'm hearing is the claim that ID depends on believing that there was a violation of physical, natural laws. It is true that ID advocates have questioned the philosophical basis of naturalism which underlies modern science, but the concept of ID itself is not predicated on a break in the laws of nature. I would more describe it as "agnostic" on this question. In his book Darwin's Black Box, Michael Behe proposes several possibilities of how ID might have occurred without supernatural intervention into the physical world.

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  4. But I still believe that the main purpose of Darwin's theory is to vanquish the notion of design in the biological world.

    The purpose of the theory is to provide a plausible naturalistic explanation of the diversity of life on the planet, and it succeeds dramatically. It does not do away with the idea of design, but it substitutes a notion of design-without-agency.

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  5. " It does not do away with the idea of design, but it substitutes a notion of design-without-agency."

    Richard Dawkins would disagree with you. The subtitle of his book is "Why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design."

    Of course, you're defining the word "design" differently than he is, and differently than I am. But that's the whole problem: you know exactly what Dawkins and I mean when we say "design" in this context, and you're attempting to defuse our arguments by defining the word in your own preferred way.

    This is so typical. How can I possibly get into a discussion with people who have expelled ID from even being a conceptual possibility, who hold that it is simply wrong by default?

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  6. I havn't read anything on ID for a couple basic reasons.

    1. It sounds like a fad

    2. I don't think its going to help further science.

    to me, Evolution is a debate about philosophy not a debate about science.

    - Daganev.

    p.s. why doens't posting under my account name seem to work?

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  7. Daganev, I don't know. I went to Beta Blogger and am having all kind of trouble since. Half the time I just give up. So much for Google.

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  8. I mean when we say "design" in this context, and you're attempting to defuse our arguments by defining the word in your own preferred way.

    I'm not attempting to defuse your argument, cause you didn't make one. Nor am I using some idiosyncratic definition of "design." There is pattern and structure in living organisms, and there is a general suitability of this structure to the particular environment of the organism. I don't see a problem with calling this design, regardless of how it came about. When engineers or scientists use evolutionary (genetic) techniques to solve optimization problems, the solutions generated are still called "designs" for the same reason. They possess a particular structure in virtue of which they solve a particular problem.

    If Dawkins prefers not to use the term, that's his prerogative. I think he refers to it as "apparent design." Dennett, for one, doesn't seem to have a problem with the term. Might I also suggest that the very expression "intelligent design" suggests that there can be design without intelligence, else why not call it simply "Design Theory"?

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  9. AHA!

    You are using Blogger beta, as in "testing phase"

    You should report the issues you are having. The problem must be that I have a google account and a Blogspot account with the same name.

    -Daganev.

    As for the ID question...

    Whats a good place to read bout the acutal ideas?

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  10. Many books, many books... For an intro to the history of the whole debate, try Evolution vs. Creationism by Scott. She includes large quotes from the most important ID works, although her position is of course pro-science, i.e., pro-evolution.

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  11. Nor am I using some idiosyncratic definition of "design."

    Yes, you are. Does your idea of natural design have a predetermined purpose?... or are the patterns accidental, like the face on mars.

    Design implies "intent", natural or otherwise... and yes, you read that right.

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  12. Does your idea of natural design have a predetermined purpose?... or are the patterns accidental, like the face on mars.

    Neither. There is no "predetermined purpose," at least not in the sense that this predicate "purpose" is usually attributed to agents. Evolution is a "design process" -- an "optimization process" -- which in general has the effect of bringing organisms into compatibility with their environment. One can study the process of evolution on the "algorithmic level" of how modifications are effected by the genome, etc., or one can study the process on the "computational level" of what problem is being solved, but in either case it's hard to find "predetermined purpose."

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  13. Some guy,

    Here is the problem with your analogy.

    When "evolution" is used on a computational level, as an optimization problem.. each element put into the optimization problem IS designed. The tester is taking multiple designs and plans that they think might work, and are testing to see which design works best.

    Nobody takes random genes and throws them together with a random sequence generator to discover the next genetic breakthrough. They use multiple tests of things which they designed and planned as possibilites.

    If you want to see a "fun" experiment with evolution, I suggest you get your hands on a computer game called SPORE. Its made by the guy who created the Sims, and is basically an computer game of evolution.

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  14. Jewishskeptic9/06/2006 3:16 PM

    This might be slightly off the topic,but anyhow I will ask it.
    A couple of years ago I heard a lecture by Dr.Shroeder,in Jerusalem,about evolution & Adam harishon.
    He explained that there were hominids in human form before Adam.However,Adam was the first human who had a *n'shamah*soul,as it's written in Gen.2:7 "vaipach b'apav NISHMAT chayim"-He breathed into his nostrils a living soul.
    I interjected by saying that it's a mistranlation.In biclical hebrew neshamah always means *breath*,like in lo techayeh kol neshamah, & on shabbat we say nishmat kol chai-the breath of every living being.
    So Gen.2:7 should be translated "He breathed into his nostrils a BREATH OF life.
    He was stuck for an answer.Someone in the audience shouted out that Artscroll translates it thus.

    But it's translated by soncino,& all other other translation that I have seen "breath of",except Artscroll which translates it soul.
    Now this is of vital importance when discussing evolution & the Jewish (or Christian) religion.
    I would like to hear,David,what's your understanding of Gen.2:7

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  15. Neither. There is no "predetermined purpose," at least not in the sense that this predicate "purpose" is usually attributed to agents

    No, you don't know that, can't prove it, and don't know what you're saying, but I'd suggest that you look up "scientific teleology" in the teleology page of wiki.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleology

    You're making assumptions about the true nature of the universe that are not justified by anything more than theoretical speculation that exists in the face of much evidence to the contrary. There are perfectly valid cosmological models that include intrinsic and extrinsic finality are valid scientific concepts in a universe that is observationally proven to be "less-than-copernican". Thermodynamic Finality would be one valid scientific possibility in this case, if there is a defined "goal" behind the process.

    arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0604008
    hypography.com/topics/Laplaces_Demon_112215.cfm

    Evolution is a "design process" -- an "optimization process" -- which in general has the effect of bringing organisms into compatibility with their environment.

    Where the weak anthropic principle notes that the environment must *enable* all of this, within the practical limitations of human capabilities...

    [And that's all that I am required to say, but I'll add the following with the understanding that the point is already proven without it.]

    ... and intelligence enabled technological advancement
    , which, I might add, clearly proves that the leap from apes to harness fire and beyond... is no accident.

    One can study the process of evolution on the "algorithmic level" of how modifications are effected by the genome, etc., or one can study the process on the "computational level" of what problem is being solved, but in either case it's hard to find "predetermined purpose."

    Really?... that's funny because there are very respectable scientists out there that will tell you that they can provide evidence for exactly the opposite:

    For example, Scott Sampson:
    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bios/sampson.html

    Eric Schneider James Kay and Dorion Sagan would flat, contradict you:
    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/edit/archives/2004/09/30/2003204990

    So would Lynn Margulis...

    ...And so would I...

    For a few examples, but remember that efforts to downplay the significance and meaning of evidence is only half of what constitutes honest scientific investigation of what is not necessarily only "naively" indicated by whatever evidence.

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  16. Neither. There is no "predetermined purpose," at least not in the sense that this predicate "purpose" is usually attributed to agents

    No, you don't know that, can't prove it, and don't know what you're saying, but I'd suggest that you look up "scientific teleology" in the teleology page of wiki.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleology

    You're making assumptions about the true nature of the universe that are not justified by anything more than theoretical speculation that exists in the face of much evidence to the contrary. There are perfectly valid cosmological models that include intrinsic and extrinsic finality are valid scientific concepts in a universe that is observationally proven to be "less-than-copernican". Thermodynamic Finality would be one valid scientific possibility in this case, if there is a defined "goal" behind the process.

    arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0604008
    hypography.com/topics/Laplaces_Demon_112215.cfm

    Evolution is a "design process" -- an "optimization process" -- which in general has the effect of bringing organisms into compatibility with their environment.

    Where the weak anthropic principle notes that the environment must *enable* all of this, within the practical limitations of human capabilities...

    [And that's all that I am required to say, but I'll add the following with the understanding that the point is already proven without it.]

    ... and intelligence enabled technological advancement
    , which, I might add, clearly proves that the leap from apes to harness fire and beyond... is no accident.

    One can study the process of evolution on the "algorithmic level" of how modifications are effected by the genome, etc., or one can study the process on the "computational level" of what problem is being solved, but in either case it's hard to find "predetermined purpose."

    Really?... that's funny because there are very respectable scientists out there that will tell you that they can provide evidence for exactly the opposite:

    For example, Scott Sampson:
    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bios/sampson.html

    Eric Schneider James Kay and Dorion Sagan would flat, contradict you:
    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/edit/archives/2004/09/30/2003204990

    So would Lynn Margulis...

    ...And so would I...

    For a few examples, but remember that efforts to downplay the significance and meaning of evidence is only half of what constitutes honest scientific investigation of what is not necessarily only "naively" indicated by whatever evidence.

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  17. >In biclical hebrew neshamah always means *breath*,like in lo techayeh kol neshamah, & on shabbat we say nishmat kol chai-the breath of every living being.

    You are correct and in Rambam's Judaism there is no Neshamah in a sense of a separate entity. That is why he starts Shemona Perakim Nefesh hadam achat hee. I will be posting about it though I already alluded in an earlier post to that. The problem that we have to deal with is that Rambam's understanding was based on medieval philosophers who understood that acquiring knowledge somehow fuses man's thought with the acquired knowledge. Knowledge being eternal so we now have an eternal part of man. We understand thought processes differently and we are then left with dealing with the mind/body problem or some other such issue. It is probably one of the most difficult issues in Machshava to me. As I go along with Nevuah I hope to deal with it satisfactorily though I believe it will not be easy.

    My friend Chardal who has a different take on things, will probably have much to say about it.

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  18. >somehow fuses man's thought with the acquired knowledge

    JS - you will recognize this as Dea'ah, Yode'ah and Yadu'a. See Moreh 1:68

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  19. IrvineChasid9/06/2006 5:00 PM

    >My friend Chardal who has a different take on things, will probably have much to say about it.

    I am not chardal, but I will say a few things anyways :P

    1. I was taught that the "human soul" was put into all the "Human animals" when adam was "kicked out of the garden", not when he was created.

    2. Neshmat Kal Chai, is the "animal" soul which all humans also have. So when Gd gave him the breath of life, that is the equivilent of saying he was given an animal soul.

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  20. >In biclical hebrew neshamah always means *breath*,like in lo techayeh kol neshamah, & on shabbat we say nishmat kol chai-the breath of every living being.

    >You are correct and in Rambam's Judaism there is no Neshamah in a sense of a separate entity.

    B. Spinoza

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  21. IrvineChasid9/06/2006 5:03 PM

    >1. I was taught that the "human soul" was put into all the "Human animals" when adam was "kicked out of the garden", not when he was created.

    Oi, just realized I left out a detail of importance...

    Part of this lesson is the idea that the events that took place with Gan Eden happened in the spiritual world, not the physical world. They ALSO happened in the physical world, but what exactly happened is not exactly clear(i.e. not really important either)

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  22. I meant to add that Spinoza makes the same point that the idea of "soul" as separate entity is not mentioned in the Torah

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  23. IrvineChasid9/06/2006 5:07 PM

    >I meant to add that Spinoza makes the same point that the idea of "soul" as separate entity is not mentioned in the Torah

    I would hope not.

    It would really throw of how to study torah if a more esoteric concept was written as pshat.

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  24. >It would really throw of how to study torah if a more esoteric concept was written as pshat.

    yeah, it would be a real shame if the Torah was written clearly so that we could actually understand it

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  25. and the idea of the soul is not esoteric (secret). If anything, it's the other way around

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  26. IrvineChasid9/06/2006 5:26 PM

    Firstly, the Torah IS written clearly, so that 5 year olds can understand it.

    Learn Torah at 5
    Mishna at 10
    Gemorah at 15

    And the human soul is the definition of esoteric. Its basically the only evidence we have that there might even be a concept of non physical reality.

    The most basic non esoteric explanation of the soul is "the breath of life" Questions about free will, and introspection are all deep esoteric ideas. Atleast they are for most people.

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  27. >Firstly, the Torah IS written clearly, so that 5 year olds can understand it.

    I'm all for taking the Torah non-literally when reason contradicts the plain pshat. But I see no reason to do it in order to add ideas that make little sense to me.

    >The most basic non esoteric explanation of the soul is "the breath of life"

    I was being a little facetious. Esoteric means secret, in other words no body knows about it. But the common understanding in our day is the idea of "soul" as separate entity. Go back and read Jewish Skeptics story and you'll see that everyone assumed the pshat was "soul" and not "breath"

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  28. IrvineChasid9/06/2006 5:57 PM

    >I'm all for taking the Torah non-literally when reason contradicts the plain pshat. But I see no reason to do it in order to add ideas that make little sense to me.

    I don't know where you are comming from, but the talmud says that every word of the Torah also has a non literal meaning.

    i.e. Rabbi Akiva and the crowsn, 70 faces of the Torah like the 70 faces of a diamond, 12 Torahs 1 for each tribe, the whole concept of asmachtas, the idea that each verse of the torah also applies to the year we are in.

    Lets look at this verse logically. Breath vs Soul...
    Question 1. What is the difference?
    Question 2. Why does "man" get breath, but no other animal does?
    Question 3. What does the word Soul mean now, vs what did the word soul mean, say, 800 years ago?

    I don't think the answer to those questions are so simple.

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  29. >Question 1. What is the difference?

    one is a breath of air, the other is some ghost-like substance

    >Question 2. Why does "man" get breath, but no other animal does?

    to show that man is special to God

    >Question 3. What does the word Soul mean now, vs what did the word soul mean, say, 800 years ago?

    did you ever see the movie Ghost? That's what people useually mean when they say "Soul" today. However, sometimes people use it to mean the mind/personality. I have no idea how they used it 800 years ago

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  30. for more information see here

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  31. >Why does "man" get breath, but no other animal does?


    כא מִי יוֹדֵעַ, רוּחַ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם--הָעֹלָה הִיא, לְמָעְלָה; וְרוּחַ, הַבְּהֵמָה--הַיֹּרֶדֶת הִיא, לְמַטָּה לָאָרֶץ. 21 Who knoweth the spirit of man whether it goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast whether it goeth downward to the earth?

    Kohelet 3:21

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  32. IrvineChasid9/06/2006 8:43 PM

    There we have Ruach, which is different from Neshama.

    I was asking rhetorical questions by the way...

    If Neshama only means "breathe" than how can that show that Man is special? We see animals breathing all the time!!

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  33. >There we have Ruach, which is different from Neshama.


    כא וַיִּגְוַע כָּל-בָּשָׂר הָרֹמֵשׂ עַל-הָאָרֶץ, בָּעוֹף וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבַחַיָּה, וּבְכָל-הַשֶּׁרֶץ, הַשֹּׁרֵץ עַל-הָאָרֶץ--וְכֹל, הָאָדָם. 21 And all flesh perished that moved upon the earth, both fowl, and cattle, and beast, and every swarming thing that swarmeth upon the earth, and every man;
    כב כֹּל אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁמַת-רוּחַ חַיִּים בְּאַפָּיו, מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר בֶּחָרָבָה--מֵתוּ. 22 all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, whatsoever was in the dry land, died.

    Breishis 7:21-22

    Who says that Neshama, Ruach or Nefesh is what differentiates man from animals. It is what he can do and does with them that differentiates him.
    BTW if you sign in with your gmail username and password you should be able to comment with your real name.

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  34. IrvineChasid9/06/2006 9:52 PM

    >Who says that Neshama, Ruach or Nefesh is what differentiates man from animals.

    The Zohar?

    Its all there in the Wiki article about the soul :)

    It is interesting that its the Ruach Chaim here and the Neshmat chai there.

    All I am saying is that there are differences and they are well defined, and its meaning is more complex than people like to pretend.

    Just like many people know the difference between a life, Ghost, Spirit, Soul, and Spectre, for many years people knew all the differences between ruach, neshama, nefesh,and Chaya.

    This reminds me of the mind vs brain debates I read a while ago.

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  35. Dr. Island, rather than throwing random links at me, why don't you tell me what they say that's important, and why it contradicts what I said.

    As a reminder, I have made the point that one can have design without agency, and that it is difficult to identify "predetermined purpose" on this view. I don't understand what the anthropic principle or thermodynamic finality or "intelligence enabled technological advancement" has to do with anything. You really lost me.

    I would not object to the term "purpose," if it used in a similar capacity to my use of the term "design," but it's difficult to fit "predetermined purpose" into this view, except in the sense that there exists a space of possible solutions, and one of these will likely be chosen.

    With regard to Avi's point, I'm not sure the analogy is that far off. Nature doesn't take random pieces and throw them together. It always works with the prior generation of solutions. In a sense, it seeds the optimization process with the previous best designs. It is Nature's ability to reuse and modify previously discovered solutions that makes evolution possible in the relevant time frames (Simon, 1996, "‘The sciences of the Artificial").

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  36. >Nature doesn't take random pieces and throw them together. It always works with the prior generation of solutions.

    I don't think you are being honest with yourself here.

    "prior generation of solutions" only works if there was some original sollution.

    However, from what I was told in science class, it appears that after a giant explosion, eventually hyrdogen merged together into helium, and then iron, and then this iron gets thrown around and turns into a sphereoid which then collects more iron and hydrogen that gets thrown into the sphere, untill one day carbon and oxygen and nitrogen and gold and silver and lithium etc is thrown into the mix. Out of this, every known chemical is eventually forged, into a large variety of rocks and later water, then after everything is finally mixed, we get a lifeless molocules which then combine into a single cell. AT THIS POINT, you have your "working sollutions" to start the process of evolution.

    I wonder if they ever found gold or silver or bronze on other planets...

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  37. >Just like many people know the difference between a life, Ghost, Spirit, Soul, and Spectre,

    Thank God you said many not all people. I have an idea what life means the other words have no meaning to me other than a fantasy, at least in the context you talk about them.

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  38. Well, I guess that's fair. I was not discussing the very beginnings of life, which is a question of how self-replicating molecules came into being. As you point out, that is more a matter of chemistry than biology.

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  39. Some Guy, I'm sorry, and I apologize to anyone else that I lost. Let me say this in a different way:

    If there is some good physical reason why we are necessary to the physical process of the universe, then we are not here by accident.

    In this case, "necessity is the mother of invention"/design.

    This is what is indicated by the fact that the actual structure of the universe is in "dramatic contrast" to the "expectation", so many fixed balance points that are commonly pointing directly toward carbon-based life indicate that there is some good physical reason for it that is somehow "specially" related to the existence of carbon-based life.

    P.S. I'm not a PhD... although, I am an "expert" on the AP.

    I hope that helps, as this conversation is very difficult for me to get my usual hooks into.

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  40. IrvineChasid9/07/2006 3:06 PM

    >If there is some good physical reason why we are necessary to the physical process of the universe, then we are not here by accident.

    Interesting. To me, one of the signs of our divine nature as humans is that we destroy ecosystems and do not create them. As they said in the Matrix, Humans fufill the definition of a virus. And ironically, it is only viruses that really threaten humans in nature.

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  41. IrvineChasid9/07/2006 3:10 PM

    >I have an idea what life means the other words have no meaning to me other than a fantasy, at least in the context you talk about them.

    What context am I speaking about them in? I don't understand.

    Ghost is normally the same thing as a soul, but somehow, stuck here. Same with spectre. But when a soul is stuck in a person's body, they arn't called a ghost. (The context I'm comming from here are Fantasy computer games where these debates are often had for monsters and silly things)

    My point being, there is a simple childish way to understand these terms, and a more nuanced complex way to understand them.

    When the Torah uses Nefesh and Ruach and Chayah, they are written on a level that a 5 year old can understand (not because previous generaions were stupid, but so that we can teach Torah to 5 year olds!)

    But just because the Torah uses them taht way, does not mean thats the deepest way to understand what the Torah is saying.

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  42. Jewishskeptic9/07/2006 3:17 PM

    >"You are correct and in Rambam's Judaism there is no Neshamah in a sense of a separate entity"

    I am not so sure about it,David.
    Whilst it's interesting that in the Hakdamah to the 8 prakim,he uses nefesh & not the word neshamah,however,in M.N.1:70,he says:
    כי הנשמות הממשיכות להתקיים אחר המוות26 אינן הנשמה המתהווה27 באדם כאשר הוא נוצר, כי זאת המתהווה27 בשעת היווצרותו היא כוח הכנה בלבד28, בעוד הדבר הנבדל29 אחר המוות הוא מה שהגיע להיות בפעל
    (Shwarts tr.).
    Crescas has a very long commentary on the above & writes:
    ואם נאמין בזאת האמונה שהכל דבר אחד היא אמונה פחותה בתכלית הגנות.אבל ראוי לנו שנמשך אחר דעת התורה ודעת נביאנו ודעת חכמי תורתנו שהמחויב עלינו שנמשך אחריהם ונאמין אמונה קיימת בהשארות הנפשות כמו שנזכר במקומות רבים.

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  43. Here's some food for thought for anyone that wants to be honest enough with themselves to recognize valid honest unmotivated science when they see it, which merrits further scientific investigation:

    1) If "anthropic specialness" means that there is a true anthropic constraint on the forces of the universe... then it is highly probable that there is a reciprocal connection between the human evolutionary process and the evolution of the universe as a whole.

    2) That means that there is an identifiable mechanism that enables the universe to "evolve".

    That is so simply obvious that you would have expected that somebody would have produced this cosmological model a long time ago, but the sad fact of the matter is that nobody investigates the physics for the anthropic principle from a self-honest perspective for many differnt purely selfish reasons, and my example proves it by the fact that it absurdly apparent when you do.

    The direction of evolution is *toward* absolute symmetry... "optimization", and a big bang that produces a "near-flat" universe has taken an extremely good shot at doing "exactly" that, so yes, symmetry/"optimization" via increasing "energy-efficiency" is the direction of evolution... including the universe, itself.

    The problem is that getting there is impossible in an inherently imperfect universe, so the effort is perpetually "forward" in that direction.

    This is my blog, and it deals with the cost to science that results from their dogmatic refusal to take an honest look.

    Science In Crisis
    http://evolutionarydesign.blogspot.com/

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  44. IrvineChasid said...
    Interesting. To me, one of the signs of our divine nature as humans is that we destroy ecosystems and do not create them. As they said in the Matrix, Humans fufill the definition of a virus. And ironically, it is only viruses that really threaten humans in nature.

    Destroy or "enhance"... how can we possibly *truly* destroy the ecobalance for which we contributing members *BELONG* to, especially since ecosystems are proven to be self-regulating?

    Our contribution to the entropy of the universe MUST increase *efficiently* as time moves forward or we will stagnate and die, and this is the self-regulation that the tug-o-war between the ideological right and left represents.

    ALL anthropic coincidences are similarly balanced between diametrically opposing <-- | --> runaway tendencies, where any sustained deviation leads to a cumulatively runaway effect toward certain death.

    An illustration from a physics lecture on the anthropic principle:
    http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/images/instability.gif

    Certain death, gloom-n-doom scenarios MUST always surround us for us to survive.

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  45. As they said in the Matrix, Humans fufill the definition of a virus. And ironically, it is only viruses that really threaten humans in nature.

    And in Matrix Reloaded Morphius correctly countered:

    Believe me when I say we have a difficult time ahead of us. But if we are to be prepared for it, we must first shed our fear of it. I stand here, before you now, truthfully unafraid. Why? Because I believe something you do not? No, I stand here without fear because I remember. I remember that I am here not because of the path that lies before me but because of the path that lies behind me. I remember that for 100 years we have fought these machines. I remember that for 100 years they have sent their armies to destroy us, and after a century of war I remember that which matters most... We are still here!!!

    Today, let us send a message to that army. Tonight, let us shake this cave. Tonight, let us tremble these halls of earth, steel, and stone, let us be heard from red core to black sky. Tonight, let us make them remember, THIS IS ZION AND WE ARE NOT AFRAID!


    ;)

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  46. IrvineChasid9/07/2006 5:31 PM

    >Destroy or "enhance"... how can we possibly *truly* destroy the ecobalance for which we contributing members *BELONG* to, especially since ecosystems are proven to be self-regulating?

    Just repeating what the "scientists" say about us humans destroying the earth.

    I never got how humans can destroy nature if we are part of nature, its as if we are outside of nature that we are able to cause global warming, and "ruin everything"

    Unless ofcourse, they are trying to teach us what religion teaches which says that humans aren't part of nature. Silly scientists, trying to teach people religion.

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  47. JS, I read that as Rambam's normal understanding that a man has the potential when he is born to differentiate from animals and if he does his knowledge fuses with the sechel hapoel making him eternal. See beginning Shemona perakim (end of first chapter)- Veda shezot hanafesh hachat asher qadam ...ve'im lo tikaneh lah hatzura they'eh metziut hevel... (Shilat ed) He says it in moreh too where he compares an undeveloped brain to a beheima.(I am too tired to look for it). Crescas you quote agrees with my interpretation and disagrees with Rambam on that.

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  48. JS, also don't forget Nefesh and neshamah are translations both in MN and in SP.

    BTW there is a very good book that I am reading by Kenneth Seeskin Searching for a Distant God that you would enjoy a lot.

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  49. David, I also read Distant God. Not bad. He also has a shorter, more popular version called "A Guide for Today's Perplexed" or something like that. (Not that you would want the popular version, though...)

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  50. And ironically, it is only viruses that really threaten humans in nature.

    Irviner, you are making less sense than usual.

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  51. Sir Island, I don't know what to say. What you consider obvious is not obvious to me at all.

    If "anthropic specialness" means that there is a true anthropic constraint on the forces of the universe... then it is highly probable that there is a reciprocal connection between the human evolutionary process and the evolution of the universe as a whole.

    First of all, what kind of anthropic constraint are you talking about. Weak, strong, participatory?

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  52. Some Guy, I read that too. "Lech Raid" :-)

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  53. If "anthropic specialness" means that there is a true anthropic constraint on the forces of the universe

    That would describe an anthropic cosmological principle, as it isn't complete in this general form.

    then it is highly probable that there is a reciprocal connection between the human evolutionary process and the evolution of the universe as a whole.

    Some Guy... I was careful to say that it was "food for thought", and it is not necessary to my point... but the fact that you've pounced on it as a perceived weakness instead usually says a LOT about one's "willingness to see".

    Just read what I wrote without qualifying it with a bunch of lame weak, strong, CRAP... conditions.

    It really not that hard... lol

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  54. IrvineChasid said...
    Just repeating what the "scientists" say about us humans destroying the earth.

    And the majority of scientists lean pretty hard to the ideological left, but that doesn't mean that the scientists and philosophers at TCS Daily (for example), don't commonly produce just as much evidence to the exact contrary.

    I never got how humans can destroy nature if we are part of nature, its as if we are outside of nature that we are able to cause global warming, and "ruin everything"

    I think that it's part of the tug-o-war anthropic coincidence that I mentioned which prevents the inherent runaway effect that I mentioned. Voluntary constraints on our behavior that result from heightened ecological awareness keep us from pushing too hard and too fast, so that nature doesn't have to slap us back into line.

    Unless ofcourse, they are trying to teach us what religion teaches which says that humans aren't part of nature. Silly scientists, trying to teach people religion.

    Bingo... detatchment from the process... "Free-Thinkers"... are equally "arrogant"... or whatever, I don't mean to insult anyone's religious beliefs.

    My apologies to the character, "MorphEus" for misspelling his name.

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  55. Island, if you don't tell me what anthropic "constraint" you are talking about, how can I make sense of your statements? You've got to give me a fighting chance here... I can't read your mind!

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